Moonv6: A Small Step for Man, A Giant Leap for Mankind?

Published: 11 Mar 2004

Jessy Cavazos, Industry Analyst

Until now, IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) deployment has been greater in Europe and Asia than in North America. However, an announcement from the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) and the North American IPv6 Task Force (NAv6TF) in October 2003 brought back this protocol to the forefront in this region, and could potentially change the entire market scenario. This project, called Moonv6, completed its first phase by the end of last year. As the second phase has just been announced, Frost & Sullivan takes a look at the development of the IPv6 industry, Phase 1 of the Moonv6 project, and the key role played by the test and measurement industry in this project.

Overview of the IPv6 Industry

The factors driving the development of the IPv6 industry are very much specific to geography.

What is Driving IPv6 in North America?

As mentioned in the introduction, the North American market is less developed than Europe and Asia. However, the situation changed in late 2003 with the announcement from the Department of Defense (DoD). The government seems to have realized the importance of the end-to-end networking model, which in the case of the DoD, is absolutely essential.

Restoring End-to-End Computing

The key factor that will drive the development of the IPv6 market in North America is the fact that IPv6 restores end-to-end computing. Another advantage is that IPv6 mandates IPSec (Internet Protocol Security). Hence, there is some level of guarantee and compliance to IPv6, which will ensure the market that IPSec will be available in any IPv6 products.

Enabling True Roaming Mobility

The second key driver that is likely to positively impact the market place is mobility. Today, if you are going to the airport with your laptop, for example, you shut it down and reconnect at the airport if there is a hotspot there. The idea of true mobility and roaming means that you can stay connected in the car, on the bus, etc. while going to the airport. There is a business opportunity and a technological opportunity to advance and evolve the business state-of-the-art; an economic stimulus, and the technology state-of-the art, which is a technology benefit for the pedestrian, casual user, the corporation, etc. Within the mobility aspect, there are also multiple technical reasons that are likely to be positive for IPv6. Another advantage that is expected to drive IPv6 in North America will be the providers wanting to provide data over IP for a cell-phone or handheld device.

These advantages aren't possible with IPV4 (Internet Protocol version 4). Today, we live in a network address translation (NAT) model all over the world. This model simulates life inside a castle. To leave the castle, you must talk to the guard and get their permission. The first benefit, business benefit and advantage of IPv6 to the market is end-to-end, the restoration of end-to-end computing, the choice to not live in a castle anymore.

For more ionformation on the benefits of IPv6 to the United States more specifically, please refer to the response made by the North American IPv6 Task Force (NAv6TF) to the U.S. Department of Commerce at http://www.unicttaskforce.org/perl/documents.pl?id=1292

What about Asia Pacific?

Asia Pacific faces the same driving factors with one exception. This region did not really get its share of the IP address space. They do not have the addresses to support the potential onslaught of business opportunities. For example, if anyone wanted 3 million addresses, and wanted to give each individual student an address in China for a handheld device as part of coming to the university, they would really have to struggle to get the 3 million addresses out of IPv4. Another example could be if there were 50 million handsets deployed in Asia, all with an IP address that roamed in and out of the region, meaning a globally routable address for that handheld, it would be simply impossible. Hence, Asia can build its infrastructure for the Internet now and become a global participant with the help of IPv6. However, they will not be able to become this leader with IPv4. Out of the R&D community, the government communities, Asia is expected to transition to IPv6 very quickly. The rate of product deployment is going to be fast in this region. This market is already in process because they see lots of benefits to IPv6.

Europe?

There are technological activities in Europe that are extremely advanced in this domain. From a market perspective, the drivers for Europe are 3G deployment, even though everyone is still eager to know when this market will start developing, and also the mobility factor. The military environment in Europe is considering IPv6 for the same reasons as the US military. Their requirements are not that different from what will be delivered to the market, which will benefit the vendors who build for the DoD. This enables them to sell these same products to the industry. Clearly, there will be a need for customization for the DoD, for the telecommunications companies, etc. but the base deliverable that is required by the DoD is also required by the private sector. This is one of the reasons why the NAv6TF (North American IPv6 Task Force) is working so closely with the DoD.

Developing regions such as South America also offer potential for IPv6. The key reason for a market in South America for IPv6 is mobility. We can therefore deduce that large address space, mobility, mandatory security, the restoration of the end-to-end model, are the key driving forces for the IPv6 industry.

Potential Restraints to Market Development?

Potential Risks of End-to-End Computing

The market deployment might be affected by the reluctance among people to open the world to everyone, as they fear it could be abused. However, people have to make a decision, a significant decision on how they want to live on the Internet. The North American IPv6 Task Force (NAv6TF) feels that end-to-end computing is absolutely required. They also believe that if they understand the technology and know how to manage it, they can fight any abuse. Furthermore, the end-to-end model does not have to be adopted. It is still an option. People can still live behind firewalls and network filters if they choose to do so but with IPv6, the option to be end-to-end is available.

Economic Downturn

Even though, there is a key social debate to end-to-end computing, this is not what has held back the industry over the past three years. The major slowdown for the development of IPv6 worldwide has been the economic downturn, as the telecommunication industry reduced its capital expenditures significantly. All markets went through a recession worldwide, and no technology, including IPv6, or product could move during the recession.

In conclusion, going forward, several factors could restrain the development of IPv6. However, the likelihood of people siding against end-to-end computing is fairly small. In fact, even though the world market for IPv6 includes various geographies with many different political views, social infrastructures, and sometimes completely opposite views of life, all seem to be favorable to end-to-end computing.

Another factor that could hurt IPv6 would be vendors' ability to introduce and ship products that meet end-user expectations at the right time. For example, Moonv6 requires more IPSec implementation for it to succeed. Also, if vendors don't implement efficiently and quickly mobile IPv6, it could significantly restrain the market.

Global economics are likely to continue to rule the market place as well as the uncertainty around wireless, 3G, GPRS, etc. There is a potential infrastructure cost over time that needs to be taken into consideration. However, for North America more specifically, the two critical factors are expected to be wireless infrastructure and the 3G and GPRS infrastructure. Once these infrastructures have IPv6, it will permit all benefits of the end-to-end model to reach the end consumer.

Developing IPv6 in North America: The Moonv6 Project

Moonv6 is a project that aims at boosting the deployment of IPv6 in North America. The project was named Moonv6, assimilating its significance to sending someone to the moon. Initially, it was involving the collaboration of 6 to 8 vendors, the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) and the Department of Defense (DoD). However, all the branches of the military became involved and the number of equipment vendors participating in the end totaled 26. In addition to this, there were four commercial service providers involved.

The key point was that, all these entities were collaborating to solve the problem and show that IPv6 would work in a network setting. Commercial service providers helped with their engineering knowledge, building real-world networks to make the test plan look and feel more like the real world.

As of now, only Phase 1 of the project is complete. Many vendors participated and many others are likely to participate in Phase 2. Moonv6 really was a stimulus for the press community, the Internet service providers, etc. and generated greater interest for this technology in the industry.

Moonv6, More than a Test Bed

One unique feature of the Moonv6 project is that it is not just a test bed but a network pilot. It is a semi-commercial network with connections to the DoD and other agencies where they can run their own private networks using IPv6 as a portal/window into Moonv6.

Moonv6, Larger than North America

In the future, Moonv6 is hoped to be connected to 6NET in Europe, which is a research and development network there, and also to CNGI (China Next Generation Internet). It is expected to become a worldwide IPv6 backbone and be accessible to anyone in the world.

Highlights of Phase 1

The major highlight of Phase 1 was that overall everything works. There were some minor issues, however, none that could not be overcome. The ability to enable the dual operation of IPv4 and IPv6 was the key finding. This is a critical aspect since IPv6 will not erase IPv4 at least in the short term. Instead, it is expected that both technologies will work side by side for some time, even though the ultimate goal is to transition to IPv6 entirely.

Phase 2 Preview, What Can We Expect?

In terms of security and mobility, more functionality testing was performed in Phase 1 to show that it worked between devices rather than doing extensive, exhaustive testing. Phase 2 is going to be critical in that respect. To go forward with any technology, it is necessary to test enough to make sure that it is robust. Phase 2 will be the second step in that direction. There will be no more phases after this one. Following the current series of tests, Moonv6 will remain in place as a native IPv6 backbone available for peering from anywhere in the world. It will serve as an ongoing test bed for industry, universities, research labs, Internet providers, and the JITC along with the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines and other government agencies, to assist in the evolution of the next-generation Internet protocol, IPv6, for full, wide-scale adoption and deployment throughout North America.

Working Together Towards the Same Goal

Several test equipment vendors participated actively in the Moonv6 project. They include Agilent Technologies, Spirent Communications, Ixia and Navtel Communications. Being familiar with the communication test and measurement industry, it is obvious that these companies are highly competitive and strive to keep abreast of any emerging trends to get the first mover advantage. An advantage that is critical in the communication test industry for success.

Nevertheless, it was noteworthy to see how these same companies cooperated in the first phase of this project. They were all working together and with the equipment vendors to build that market. In other words, they participated to contribute not only to their business as such but first for the bigger picture, to develop the industry. This is only when the market will be developed, that they will be able to compete for the demand. And, in the mean time, they have the opportunity to demonstrate their equipment's capabilities to the companies that are likely to be the first customers for such equipment.

In such a project, the T&M industry plays a very critical role. All vendors did end-to-end network testing. The companies' key products used for Phase 1 of the Moonv6 project including Agilent's RouterTester900, Spirent AX/4000 and Smartbits platforms, Ixia's 400T and Navtel's Intervwatch platform.

Chart 1.1 highlights the product offerings of these companies for IPv6 testing.

If you have comments on this article or questions, feel free to e-mail me at jcavazos@frost.com. This article was written with the collaboration of Jim Bound, chair of the North American IPV6 Task Force (Nav6TF) and Ben Schultz, from the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL).

Sign in to read the rest of this article

Not signed up? Register now Forgot your password?

Help Desk

Full list of offices


For more information and general enquiries, contact Frost & Sullivan near you.

North America
tel: +1.877.463.7678

Select a location near you..