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Network boasts a change of address

A group of tech heavyweights launches the largest North American network that uses the next-generation Internet address system.

A group of tech heavyweights announced on Monday that it has launched the largest North American network that uses the new Internet address system.

The network, called "MoonV6," is based on the next generation of the Internet, known as Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), which vastly expands the pool of unique numbers available for connecting PCs and other devices to the Net.

"We view ourselves as a conduit for all entities," said Jim Bound, chairman of the IPv6 Forum. "Our arms are rather long." Founding members of the forum group 3Com, Cisco Systems, AT&T and BellSouth.

Bound said the network's largest customer is the U.S. Department of Defense, which has promised to completely switch over to IPv6 by 2008. But major North American software makers have so far shied away from testing the applications on the network, he added.

"Oracle and PeopleSoft don't run on IPv6," Bound said. "We hope this persuades them to do so."

IPv6 is widely seen as a necessary successor to the current IPv4 system, which some fear could run short of addresses in Asia and Europe within the next few years. But few analysts expect the problem to affect U.S. networks anytime soon. The United States was granted an enormous number of addresses in the original worldwide allotment.

Because fear of an Internet address shortage is the single biggest argument in favor of a switch, the United States could stay on the sidelines as the rest of the world wrestles with the upgrade over the coming years, networking experts said.

"Asia will hit a problem in two or three years' time," said Ovum analyst Iain Stevenson. "You won't see similar problems in other regions for four or five years, and in North America, you won't see a problem at all."