June 16, 2003 2:39 PM PDT

Defense Dept. backs next-generation Net

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The U.S. Department of Defense said it plans to support the next-generation Internet, known as Internet Protocol version 6, in as little as five years.

In a briefing Friday, John Stenbit, assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration, said the Defense Department hopes to move to IPv6 by 2008. He said department acquisitions taking place after October of this year must be IPv6-compatible in order to help the military gear up for the transition.

"What we're trying to do is get our folks in the position that whenever the decision is made on the outside to switch, we're ready," Stenbit said. "And more importantly, on our own internal systems, which we control a little bit more, we're going to then be prepared." Stenbit stressed that the military's embrace of IPv6 would be an evolutionary process.

IPv6 has been billed as the next frontier of the Internet, an update to the current 30-year-old structure.

Stenbit said the new Internet upgrade is attractive to the military particularly because of its promise of both end-to-end security and quality of service, which aims to make sure packets traveling over the network arrive at their intended destination. Under the current system, there is no such guarantee. What's more, Stenbit said, the military must keep pace with the commercial world, which is also preparing for the upgrade.

IPv6 also could solve the potential Internet address shortfall by increasing space from 32 bits to 128 bits, which could accommodate virtually countless addresses, although that's more of a commercial problem than a military one.


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