IPv6: Ready or Not

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 05-04-2007

Way to go, vendors of low-end routers and intrusion detection and prevention systems—you're a stumbling block on Bechtel's path to the next-generation Internet.

"We're doing [both IPv4 and the next-generation IPv6 networks], and we anticipate doing both for a number of years," said Fred Wettling, a Bechtel Fellow who manages technology standards and is sponsoring the enterprise IPv6 challenge within Bechtel. "This creates a challenge from the security standpoint of making sure the security mechanisms will do tracking [and] protection on both v4 and v6 concurrently."

The problem, he said, is that "some people making security products are not quite there yet," with "there" meaning product support of native IPv6 connectivity. "That's kind of frustrating."

Why does Bechtel want IPv6? Imagine the company rapidly deploying employees to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which the construction outfit in fact did. With the vast IP addressing space IPv6 has ushered in—its main draw—and its ability to turn every notebook, cell phone or other IP-enabled gadget into a server on the peer-to-peer network that IPv6's endpoint-to-endpoint architecture enables, post-Katrina recovery would have been markedly different. For example, trailers could have been connected to each other dynamically once the IP cloud was established, with no work required from Bechtel's IT people.

It's not pie in the sky. IPv6 is here, now. Europe and Asia are roughly tied in the total number of IPv6 addresses they have per capita, said Wettling, based in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and a member of the North American IPv6 Task Force and executive director of the IPv6 Business Council. Also, the U.S. government's Office of Management and Budget has mandated that the federal government—including agencies and contractors—transition by June 2008.

Perhaps most notably for North American enterprises that haven't yet dabbled in IPv6, Microsoft is serving up the technology in Windows Vista and "Longhorn," with a protocol to tunnel IPv6 traffic over IPv4—a transition technology to compensate for security and network perimeter device vendors' lag time in supporting the new protocol.

IPv6 is now here, and so are its security issues. It is a nightmare scenario for any security officer, according to multiple sources, including Charles Lee, chief technology officer for Verizon Federal—the group within Verizon Business dedicated to serving federal government customers.

Read the full story on eWEEK.com: IPv6: Ready or Not