Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) Pacific's gradual implementation of a new and larger Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) is already well underway for the future of the fleet as explained during a media roundtable at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Aug. 4.
The Internet is running out of IP addresses, and the current IP Version 4 (IPv4), which has served as the underlying communication foundation for the Internet for more than 30 years, is now on the brink of foreseeable address exhaustion as early as in the next two years. "IPv6 was standardized in the 1990s after the realization that we were going to run out of addresses using the old protocol format," said Ronald L. Broersma, SPAWAR network security manager and chief engineer for the Defense Research and Engineering Network. "The Internet will run out of IPv4 addresses by 2012. The massive transition to this new protocol requires changes to the entire global Internet and everything that uses it from the underlying infrastructure right down to your home computer and router.
"At SPAWAR, we're qualified to do this because we directly support the warfighter and understand the priorities of the Chief of Naval Operations for the fleet of the future which will require advanced communications. We're proactive and recognize that need early by having the experience and technology ready," Broersma said.
As the pioneering organization under the Defense Department, SPAWAR Pacific has tested and deployed IPv6 in parallel compatibility with IPv4 for nearly 10 years without sacrificing the old for the new protocol.
"We were a part of [the] DoD IPv6 pilot effort, which started back in 2003, yet we've been using the new protocol well before then," Broersma said. "We've gained valuable operational experience and have shared our lessons learned with DoD, especially the Navy as they [Sailors] go to more advanced networks in the fleet. The experience we've gained and the problems we've already solved are going to save us years down the road as the rest of DoD starts deploying this [IPv6]. Our focus is also [on] coalition partners since Europe and other parts of the world are switching to the new protocol."
From better security to increased address availability, the Navy's proactive implementation of IPv6 promises to be a wise payoff despite those still awaiting a crisis or incentive to make the switch.
"The transition to IPv6 is a massive complex effort requiring everyone's participation and cooperation with no true near-term incentive. You aren’t going to suddenly be able to access new websites you couldn't access before, yet in terms of security, you can now make your IPv6 address private so that it changes daily making it harder for people to track you, which adds to the inability to map the network," Broersma said.
"Although this is a massive effort, this hasn't required any additional funding or any additional personnel. This is a model for how others can succeed as well, if they plan and start early," Broersma added.
SPAWAR is a trusted leader in this forthcoming conversion as the San Diego-based command was recently recognized as the first to reach 100 percent success in an international IPv6 survey.
Broersma has been an engineer for the Navy since 1976 receiving the Meritorious Civilian Service and Superior Civilian Service Awards. In 2010, Broersma was awarded the San Diego Business Journal's Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to information systems for more than 30 years.
Edited and reprinted from Navy News Service. For more news from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/spawar/.