Universities lead race to IPv6

Von Rodney Gedda

If next-generation IP networks promise improved security and manageability, IT departments could look to the higher education sector for inspiration as Victoria"s Monash University joined some eight other universities with IPv6 connections to GrangeNet this month.

Paul Davis, CEO of GrangeNet (GRid And Next GEneration Network), said Monash is joining an increasing number of universities looking at the next-generation Internet protocol with IPv6 connections, which have been native since the advanced research network"s inception in 2002.

"There will be an increasing move to IPv6 in the Asia-Pacific region and Monash will be an early winner as it undertakes more addresses, easy security, and better communications," Davis said.

"There is not a campus that is entirely IPv6 and that will take a while as it"s not something you can just switch on because there is a lot of legacy equipment."

Universities with IPv6 connections to GrangeNet include the Australian National University in Canberra, Victoria"s Swinburne University of Technology, the University of Technology Sydney, and Central Queensland University.

Davis says the universities are aware of the technology and are moving towards it, but urges them not to be complacent. "It has to fit in with refresh cycles (and) could be faster, but the sector is doing a good job," he said.

"The challenge has been working with people at the campus edge to encourage IPv6 uptake. We"ve given people the opportunity to test live implementations of IPv6 which is a catalyst for the next generation of the Internet."

Regarding other sectors, Davis said now is the time to seriously consider IPv6 which is not the only solution, but it will reap benefits. Senior research fellow at Monash"s Centre for Telecommunications and Information Engineering (CTIE), Brett Pentland, said although the center has been using IPv6 for four years, it was being "tunnelled" over IPv4.

"The fact that it is native reduces overhead, there is less wasted bandwidth, and is more receptive to Internet applications," Pentland said. "Management and security is more tightly integrated in IPv6 and mobility is a good example of this."

Although Pentland says address space is not such an issue for CTIE, the automatic address configuration of IPv6 will make roaming a lot neater and seamless.

"With mobile IPv6 you can have fixed addresses between networks like WiFi, WiMax, or the corporate network, and keep the applications running," he said. "Voice and video interactions are also easier, and without NATs (Network Address Translation) everyone (can be) an information provider and consumer."

Pentland said the greater significance of getting a native connection is it provides an essential step towards Monash being able to run a production - rather than experimental - IPv6 service for its large number of end users.