Largest-ever IPv6 network launched

Largest-ever IPv6 network launched

The University of New Hampshire, the U.S. Department of Defense and the North American IPv6 Task Force have joined forces to deploy the largest-ever network based on IPv6, the next-generation of the Internet's main communications protocol.

AT&T, Sprint and NTT are among the ISPs that are supporting the network, which aims to boost IPv6 usage in the U.S. by providing a platform for testing, training and software development.

Dubbed Moonv6, the IPv6 network is a "multimillion effort if you consider the retail cost of the equipment, services and engineering involved," says Ben Schultz, managing engineer at UNH's Interoperability Lab. All the ISPs involved with Moonv6 donated their services and engineering support to the IPv6 network.

Developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force, IPv6 promises easier administration, tighter security and an enhanced addressing scheme over IPv4, the Internet's current protocol. IPv6, which uses a 128-bit addressing scheme, supports a virtually limitless number of uniquely identified systems on the 'Net, while IPv4 supports only a few billion systems because it uses a 32-bit addressing scheme.

Despite its promise, IPv6 has been slow to catch on because it requires a costly and time-consuming upgrade to the Internet's backbone and edge systems. The IETF finalized IPv6 in 1998, but few ISPs or enterprises are deploying the technology.

Moonv6 is designed to help U.S. ISPs, network equipment suppliers, software developers and enterprise network managers gain real-world experience with IPv6, which is already being adopted in Asia and Europe.

"Our goals with Moonv6 are to increase the level of understanding and experience for North American constituents that will adopt IPv6," says Jim Bound, chairman of the North American IPv6 Task Force and an HP fellow. "We wish to demonstrate that IPv6 is a robust, core networking infrastructure technology that can be used now, today."

Moonv6 links UNH's Interoperability Laboratory with U.S. military sites in Arizona, California, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, South Carolina and Virginia. More than 80 servers, switches and nodes at these sites are hooked up to Moonv6 and are running both IPv4 and IPv6. In addition, half of the universities connected to Internet2, another next-generation Internet project, can access Moonv6 because their routers are IPv6 enabled.

Moonv6 carries native IPv6 traffic but also supports tunneling and other techniques that have been developed to aid in the transition between IPv4 and IPv6. Engineers have succeeded in running File Transfer Protocol, Telnet and teleconferencing applications on Moonv6, the project's organizers said.

"Our preliminary results show that IPv6 is stable, resilient and ready for integration with today's Internet," Schultz says.

Moonv6 has been operational since early October.

Thirty organizations will be conducting IPv6 interoperability testing and application development on the Moonv6 network during the next six months. The organizations that created Moonv6 hope to keep the network up and running permanently as the North American IPv6 backbone.

Moonv6 is open to any company that wants to test IPv6. Participation fees are $US2,000.

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