OPINION: How govt compares to private sector in IPv6 readiness

IPv6 Taskforce consultant Donald Clark says deployment in NZ is a 'tale of two sectors'

To mark World IPv6 launch day, Donald Clark, consultant to the IPv6 Taskforce, compares the level of readiness between Wellington and Auckland organisations in the following opinion piece.

In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens writes that “it was the best of times; it was the worst of times”. And so it is now for networking and IT professionals as they wrestle with the challenge of having to implement IPv6, to ensure the goal of the continued growth and existence of a single Internet.

The NZ IPv6 Taskforce has spend the past few years raising awareness, boosting training opportunities and encouraging adoption with the aim of making the ‘best of times’ happen as easily as possible.

In February and TaskForce held an event in Wellington for the government sector. A week or two prior, the Department of Internal Affairs had issued a missive stating that central government agencies need to be adopting IPv6 (although they fell short of setting a target timeframe for implementation).

In May, the TaskForce and Computerworld held an event in Auckland targeting the business sector. In between, WorldIPv6Launch had been announced and the roster of major global players who had committed to turning on v6 permanently in June was growing.

For each event we were worried that interest in the events would be minimal – that people would just “get” IPv6 and already be well advanced in their planning and deployment. For each event we were wrong; interest was strong, turnout was high

There were some differences between the crowds, though.

In Wellington, the more collegiate relationships across the government agencies allowed for more open discussions amongst attendees. Workshop sessions on security, LAN and WAN were interactive to the point of becoming feisty.

The knowledge sharing happened in Auckland too, thanks to amazingly open ‘warts and all’ presentations from BECA and TradeMe on their IPv6 journey. However, it was more monologue than dialogue, with attendees preferring to talk privately to TaskForce members in the breaks.

Common ground did emerge across both sectors. Firstly, IPv6 is coming. A few years ago there may have been rational grounds to doubt this, but no longer. The second, that implementation is a journey: start early, be prepared for some challenges, but do start.

Perhaps the biggest difference was that leaders in the private sector are tackling IPv6 deployment everywhere; from their photocopiers, desktops, applications, LAN, WAN to external facing services. This contrasts with government agencies which have tended to take a more outside-in approach; using simple techniques (6to4 proxies, outsources web-hosting services) to make sure their citizen facing services are available via IPv6 – and worrying about their internal IT later.

Our assessment is that the government sector, on average, is leading the private sector in its IPv6 planning and adoption in New Zealand. Most agencies are well advanced with their IPv6 preparedness, with many planning to turn it on for some citizen-facing services during 2012. Compare this with an informal survey of businesses at the Auckland event showing barely one third of organisations were currently making IPv6 a mandatory requirement in relevant procurement (this is an easy first step that every organisation should be doing by now).

Government taking the lead on IPv6 is common internationally: their remit to provide universal access to services allows for investment decisions that might not stack up for a commercial entity. It has also helped break the chicken-and-egg problem by providing an early buyer for IPv6-ready gear and services.

The good news is that the private sector will be able to make the journey with less pain and at a lower cost thanks to the efforts of the early adopters. Most vendors are at, or near, IPv4-IPv6 feature parity; integrators have more trained staff, hosting services increasingly provide IPv6 as a no-cost “flip the switch” feature. The content will be there (at least from the global providers that top our usage charts); end-user devices will be there; ISPs are providing IPv6 today.

Dickens’ novel is stuffed full of tragedies and doesn’t end up particularly well for anyone. Fortunately, the outlook for IPv6 in NZ is rather positive – just as well, as the rest of the world is heading there fast and it’d be nice to keep talking to it.

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