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The impetus to get IPv6 on the government radar in New Zealand has been rolling for a few years now. So I’d like to take a quick stock take of how we’re doing.

The pickings seem slim on the face of it, but when you take a closer look the signs are actually quite encouraging.

What is IPv6?

The Internet has historically used the IPv4 addressing protocol to support connections between devices. But IPv4 addresses have been running down for some time and are now near exhaustion. IPv6 is the replacement protocol for the Internet, and it has virtually unlimited addressing. (We sort of skipped right over IPv5, but it’s complicated so let’s not go there.)

New Zealand and IPv6

The pace of IPv6 readiness overseas is picking up significantly. New Zealand compares rather well behind the scenes although not so well at the consumer level.

The foundation for growth of IPv6 in New Zealand is well set. All of New Zealand’s major peering exchanges (clearing houses shared by ISPs) are sharing IPv6 routes, the NZ Registry Services is IPv6-enabled and so is a good percentage of our core internet infrastructure. A handful of commercial network providers and ISPs offer native IPv6 connectivity and/or transit too, though I admit I’ll be a happier consumer when I have native v6 all the way to my house.

Our IPv6 infrastructure is not world leading but nor is it badly placed. I’d call it a B, and maybe a B+. InternetNZ and the IPv6 Taskforce have been quietly busy indeed.

Government Uptake of IPv6

So how does the New Zealand government report card look?

On the plus side, a number of agencies have public-facing IPv6-addressable websites. It’s not a very long list, but it’s a start. The government’s ONE.govt network is largely IPv6-ready and offers out-of-the-box v6 connectivity externally and across the government backbone. KAREN, our high-speed research and education network managed by REANNZ, has been IPv6 since 2006.

The government Domain Name System (DNS) was IPv6 enabled in February 2012 and the Common Web Services platform/s will provide default IPv6 access to public-facing government websites. Our Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers are required to provide a platform that doesn’t prevent participating agencies moving to an IPv6 or dual-stacked environment. A February 2012 circular from the Office of the Government CIO, laid out clear and practical expectations of agencies regarding transition to IPv6.

It looks to me like government’s not badly placed with infrastructure either.

The negatives? More of government’s public-facing websites could be v6 enabled by now. For sites hosted by an IPv6 capable provider, it can be as simple as coordination with the hosting company and a few hours of work. Dual-stack hosting providers (those that can provision both IPv4 and IPv6 protocols) are well-positioned to meet government requirements and future market trends, so government agencies do have options.

When it comes to IPv6 on departmental networks (in this I include departmentally-hosted sites), it’s a bit more complex. There’s a lot of gear to configure, secure and test - and possibly replace - for departmental networks to be made IPv6-ready. That takes time and money - and makes the economics of looking at hosting and cloud services potentially more attractive.

But overall, things are looking quite promising. ONE.govt, IaaS, the Common Web Services platform/s, the government DNS registry and the handful of agency early adopters are a reasonably good start to what’s going to be a long-haul transition.

So, all things considered, I’m going to give us a B for now on the grounds that the ball is already rolling. And I’ll watch as things develop, as inevitably they will.

Are your agency’s public-facing websites already IPv6 enabled?

More Information

The IPv6 Task Force ‘Metrics Report’ was released on August 22, 2012. You can read it on the IPv6 Task Force website.

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