The Department of Defense has completed its third round of tests in an ambitious plan to upgrade its networks to next-generation Internet Protocol, including its first evaluation of Internet telephony over IP version 6.
The tests, completed Nov. 12, simulated real-world traffic conditions on Moonv6, an experimental network billed by its backers as the world's largest test bed for IPv6, the next version of the Internet's addressing system.
The tests are meant to push IPv6 into new territory, according to the University of New Hampshire's InterOperability Laboratory, which participated in the trials. In addition to testing voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone service, the Defense Department evaluated video multicasting, IEEE 802.11 wireless LANs and firewalls and IPsec (IP Security), among other things. Tests involved pure IPv6 as well as mixed IPv6 and current IPv4-standard equipment.
InterOperability Laboratory spokesman Chris Volpe said the tests showed that the base IPv6 infrastructure appears solid. But he said researchers ran into some implementation problems with specific equipment and protocol configurations, suggesting complications for real-world IPv6 deployments.
"We tested SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), and it works. But there were configuration challenges on one or both ends," Volpe said. "Once those were worked out, it worked out fine. But (the problems) indicated there will be a mild learning curve for administrators implementing this."
Volpe declined to discuss the performance of specific equipment makers, citing confidentiality agreements. Companies involved in the tests included Agilent Technologies, AT&T, Check Point Software Technologies, Cisco Systems, Extreme Technologies, Hitachi, Hewlett-Packard, Ixia, Juniper Networks, Lucent Technologies, Nortel, Microsoft, Panasonic, Secure Computing, Spirent, Sun Microsystems and Symantec.
Internet Protocol creates basic building blocks for connecting devices on a network, allowing them to find each other and share data. IPv6 is considered a necessary upgrade to the current IPv4 standard, which faces an IP address shortage outside North America.
The shift to IPv6 is also seen as a chance to boost overall network security, a major priority for the military. Citing security concerns with older IPv4 technology, the Defense Department last year announced plans to make IPv6 a required standard for all network equipment purchases by 2008.
Corporations have been slower to jump on the bandwagon, given the costs of upgrading current networks and uncertainties over how the changes will play out in real-world deployments.
The biggest commercial IPv6 backers to date are in Asia, with major IPv6 upgrade plans in the works from Japanese telephone giant NTT and Taiwan's Chung Hwa, among others.
Volpe said demand is rising, citing increased sales from computer security provider Check Point as one example. Check Point in October said it is seeing growing demand for its IPv6 firewall and VPN software, with downloads among its global customers jumping from almost nothing to 750 in the last year.
IPv6 research and development got a major boost in 2003 with the launch of Moonv6, which now has the support of about 30 private corporations, along with Internet2, the North American IPv6 Task Force, the InterOperability Laboratory and various government agencies, including the Department of Defense.
"Interest in IPv6 is growing," Volpe said. "It is not going to go away."