Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) is the next evolution in Internet Protocol beyond the IPv4 standard currently in use in most networks today. The key IPv6 enhancement is the expansion of the IP address space from 32 bits to 128 bits, enabling virtually unlimited IP addresses. This addressing capability, along with new functions enabling end-to-end security, improved mobility support, simplified address configuration and management, make IPv6 a critical component in the evolution of e-business and the next generation internet.
It has become apparent that IPv4 addresses are limited and quickly becoming exhausted. This is more evident outside the United States due to the uneven distribution of IPv4 addresses during the early stages of Internet growth. It is anticipated that European and Asian markets as well as the US Federal Government will be the first to adopt IPv6 due to lack of available IPv4 addresses. Technologies such as Network Address Translation (NAT boxes) have already been developed and deployed in efforts to reduce the demand for globally unique IPv4 addresses. Although these devices are beneficial for private network reduction of internal client IP addresses, they do not address the server side of IP address requirements and prevent some end-to-end functionalities that depend upon unique global addresses like IPSec. The key driver to migrate to IPv6 is clearly address availability. Mobile Internet telephony, wireless Internet access through PDA’s, pagers, mobile PC’s, wireless Internet business applications, home based appliance and automobile connectivity, as well as military applications are all drivers for new unique IP addresses and IPv6 adoption.
Additional IPv6 drivers include enhancements inherent in the protocol itself, such as improved security using IPSec, Quality of Service enhancements, automatic configuration and reduced management of routing tables, and improved mobility support. Since many of these features or similar functions have already been incorporated back into IPv4, these are seen as secondary drivers. Mobile Internet Telephony and wireless internet access will lead the way to IPv6.
The U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Federal CIO have established a road map for the implementation of IPv6. IPv6 is the next generation network protocol for defense modernization programs such as GIG-ES and the Future Combat System that will enable netcentric warfare. In a memorandum establishing IPv6 as a requirement for the implementation of the Global Information Grid (GIG), the Assistant Secretary of Defense, John P. Stenbit stated:
“Implementation of IPv6 is necessary due to fundamental limitations of the current IPv4 protocol that renders IPv4 incapable of meeting long-term requirements of the commercial community and DoD. IPv6 is designed to overcome those limitations by expanding available IP address space to accommodate the worldwide explosion in Internet usage, improving end-to-end security, facilitating mobile communications, providing new enhancements to quality of service, and easing system management burdens.”
IBM is a leading participant in the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and played key roles in the efforts that produced the IPv6 standard. IBM technologists continue to lead in the enhancement of this standard’s evolution today. IBM has been a long time supporter of IPv6. In 1997, IBM distributed an IPv6 enabled UNIX system (AIX). IBM is strategically enabling key products with IPv6 capability to meet demands of the next generation internet, demonstrating our leadership and commitment to IPv6 enablement worldwide.
IBM is taking a systems-level view of IPv6 by providing end-to-end solutions that include appropriate application, middleware, hardware and service offerings to take advantage of the expanded functionality IPv6 enables. The exact timing of product enhancements will depend on individual product release schedules and marketplace dynamics. This website will serve as the portal to other IPv6 initiatives within IBM as well as to provide links to IPv6 initiatives outside IBM. IBM is well positioned to meet the needs commercial and government customers seeking to transition to IPv6 before the turn of the decade.