High-speed Internet broadband is quickly becoming commonplace worldwide and many national governments have recently pledged to improve the reach of next-generation broadband networks.
There are undeniable socio-economic benefits to ensuring that as many people as possible have access to high-speed broadband, yet universal broadband will put a heavy strain on the infrastructure of the Internet, as all computers connected to the global network need an IP address. To safeguard the future growth of the digital economy, timely adoption of IPv6 is essential.
Government organisations are influential forces for Internet growth. Leading by example, they play an important part in supporting the deployment of IPv6. Where governments encourage a landscape for sustainable Internet development, the private sector will follow.
The public relies on government organisations for a huge range of information and services on everything from healthcare and education to taxes and employment. The majority of this information is now available online, enabling local and national governments to meet the public's needs more efficiently.
It's crucial for any government organisation that the services it provides can be accessed by everyone. It won't be long before most governments will have swapped paper based processes to online forms and services, and, for example, filing taxes via a website becomes the norm. When this day comes, it's paramount that government web services are compatible with IPv6 to accommodate those members of the public who will have adopted the new Internet addressing protocol.
If government organisations fail to make their services accessible via IPv6, many members of the public may be unable to access vital public services as their computer won't be able to connect with the government's IPv4-only network.
To ensure the continuing availability of critical online resources amidst the imminent depletion of IPv4 addresses, the European Commission set in May 2008 a target of 2010 for enabling 25 per cent of the public to connect to the Internet over IPv6.
Government organisations cannot act alone on IPv6. They need to work together with the technical community and the private sector. They need to use the power they hold has major procurers of technology and push vendors to develop IPv6 compatible hardware and software.
Additionally, government organisations need to adopt an active role in the policy making processes that impact on the infrastructure of the Internet. The Internet community, including the RIPE NCC, ICANN, ISOC and the NRO actively encourage government organisations to join policy discussions.
By working together in a concerted effort with commercial organisations and the Internet community to drive adoption of IPv6, we can ensure that everyone will be able to benefit from the growth of the digital economy now and beyond 2011.
As a first step, government organisations need to ensure that their own web-based services can be accessed via IPv6. Deploying IPv6 is like managing any other IT project. This simple checklist should help to get you started:
Once you have appointed a project manager, they will need to consider:
The RIPE community has produced a document that details the requirements that a government tender document should set out to ensure IPv6 compatibility. The document was produced by the RIPE IPv6 Working Group, and is a work in progress by that group:
Most businesses, and many government departments, rely on an Internet Service Provider (ISP) for their connection to the Internet. Your own network's IPv6 requirements and deployment schedule will be contingent upon your upstream provider's IPv6 deployment, so it is important that you understand what your ISP can provide and when.
Some questions that you might ask your service provider:
When upgrading your networks, it is essential to ensure that your equipment is compatible with the next generation of IP addressing. The first step is to carry out an IT audit to identify which pieces of equipment (routers, servers and other hardware) need upgrading or even replacing.
Your hardware vendor(s) should be able to help you with this process, and advise you on how to make the necessary changes. It may require a significant amount of time and effort to convert all elements of your IT infrastructure, so you may want to consider a staged deployment.
Below is a list of information provided by a sample of hardware vendors to get you started.
In order for your entire network to be IPv6 ready you need to ensure that all hardware and software is dual stacked (running IPv4 and IPv6). If you have purchased software from a third party you'll need to get in touch with the provider to check if the product is already IPv6 compatible or if there's an upgrade available. A great deal of software already on the market (including many computer operating systems, though not Windows XP) is IPv6-ready by default
If no IPv6 upgrade is available, you'll need to look for an alternative software source. Any software that you have developed in house may have to be rewritten.
There are many IPv6 training course options available, from online education to face-to-face training.
If your organisation is a member of the RIPE NCC, your staff can attend the RIPE NCC's IPv6 Training Course for no additional cost. This course provides information on how to obtain IPv6 addresses and how to prepare your deployment plan.
At the more technical end of the scale, there are several RFC documents maintained by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) that include case studies for IPv6 deployment under various business models: