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NIST Releases a Profile for IPv6 in the U.S. Government for Comment - Comments Due Feb. 29

The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) has released a second draft of a proposed standards profile to support the implementation of IPv6 by government agencies. “NIST developed the ‘profile’ to help ensure that IPv6-enabled federal information systems are interoperable, secure and able to co-exist with the current IPv4 systems.”

The second draft of A Profile for IPv6 in the U.S. Government - Version 1.0 develops a long-term strategy for 2010 and beyond. It incorporates the feedback from meetings with industry and government groups and input including more than 500 comments. The profile recommends technical standards for common network devices, such as hosts, routers, firewalls and intrusion detection systems. It also outlines the compliance and testing programs that NIST will be establishing to ensure that IPv6-enabled federal information systems are interoperable and secure, and that they work with existing IPv4 systems.

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget declared [PDF] in 2005 that all federal agencies shall migrated to IPv6 by June 30, 2008. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (which is a part of the Dept. of Commerce) was assigned the task of working on common standards and technical guidance.

On Feb. 19, NIST will hold a public meeting in order to discuss its program to test compliance with NIST’s IPv6 program. This meeting will be held outside of Washington DC at the Gaithersburg NIST campus. According to NIST’s Fed. Reg. announcement:

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) invites interested parties, including accreditors, testing laboratories and test equipment suppliers, to attend a meeting regarding the conformity assessment scheme proposed for the evaluation of Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) products to be purchased by federal agencies. The purpose of the meeting is to announce details of the proposed testing program for IPv6 devices, and specifically, to identify potential accreditation bodies to participate in the program.

In 2004 the Dept. of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) initiated an inquiry [PDF] regarding what US policy should be with regard to IPv6 adoption. While some national governments have opted to mandate IPv6 migration, in 2006 NTIA released its report in conjunction with NIST recommending a different path. The USG can set policy through (a) the passage of laws and regulations, (b) by raising awareness of and education of an issue, and (c) through its purchasing power. The power of the purse has been used before to implement policy. In 1980, the USG exercised its purchasing power through the promulgation of a DoD procurement specification, migrating all of DoD’s networks to IPv4. When a purchaser as big as the USG makes something a procurement specification, it tends to influence the products vendors make available and causes others to follow the USG lead. With regard to IPv6, NTIA recommended this strategy; while the USG would not impose any mandate on the public, IPv6 would become a procurement specification for the 800 lbs purchaser in the room.

More information on the USG’s IPv6 policy can be found at Cybertelecom.

By Robert Cannon, Cybertelecom

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