Next-generation Internet goes live

Internet protocol version 6, the next-generation Internet standard, took a giant leap forward with the establishment of a permanent IPv6 network stretching from New Hampshire to California.

The network, known as Moonv6, is a native IPv6 backbone built by a community of organizations, technology companies and the Defense Department.

For two weeks this month, Moonv6 was used to test a variety of IPv6-based solutions to ensure they could handle real-world situations.

The North American IPv6 Task Force, the Defense Information Systems Agency's Joint Interoperability Testing Command and others tested Moonv6 for quality of service, security, application handling, networking protocols and end-to-end domain-name server functionality on all major operating systems.

"The success rates we've seen here argue that IPv6 is clearing the hurdles to inevitable adoption. We plan to continue industrywide, multivendor testing on a rolling basis," said Ben Schultz, the managing engineer and project organizer at the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Laboratory, which participated in Moonv6.

IPv6 is considered a critical next step in supporting the wide variety of high-bandwidth applications that government and businesses plan to run over the Internet. Voice over IP, videoconferencing and IP multicasting require faster, more efficient networking to be effective.

Last summer, the Defense Department announced it would phase out purchase of IPv4 networking equipment in favor of IPv6. The older networking standard has been used for more than 30 years and cannot support emerging requirements for address space, mobility and security in peer-to-peer networking. Such requirements are part of the Defense Department's move toward network-centric operations.

Now that testing is complete, companies such as Cisco Systems Inc. and Procket Networks Inc. have agreed to leave millions of dollars worth of IPv6 routing equipment in place so that the network can be made available to users worldwide.

"The core network will remain up and running to peer with Internet2, and dedicated links from service providers such as AT&T will be used to deploy applications and services on native IPv6," Schultz said. "Over time, Moonv6 will invite additional service providers, nodes and peered networks to come online as it takes the next logical step and becomes a distributed native IPv6 Internet backbone."

The Moonv6 project demonstrated that IPv6 and IPv4 can be run in parallel to help ease the transition to the newer standard.

Among the technology companies that participated in Moonv6 were AT&T Corp., France Telecom, Agilent Technologies Inc., Check Point Software Technologies Inc., Cisco Systems, Extreme Networks Inc., Foundry Networks Inc., Fujitsu Ltd., Hewlett Packard Co., Hitachi Ltd., Lucent Technologies Inc., Microsoft Corp., NEC Corp., Netscreen Technologies Inc., Nokia, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Co., Procket Networks, Spirent Communications Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Symantec Corp.

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