USA — ‘Internet Crunch’ Won’t Impact Defense Networks

WASHINGTON — With reports and rumors of a big “inter­net crunch” cir­cu­lat­ing, the Depart­ment of Defense is look­ing ahead to dis­cern how it can take advan­tage of more advanced web pro­to­cols to enhance its mis­sion.

Kris Strance, the chief of inter­net pro­to­col for the depart­ment, said today in a “DoDLive” Blog­gers Round­table that the crunch – the poten­tial loss of avail­able address space for devices to con­nect to inter­net net­works – like­ly won’t affect the Defense Depart­ment. But upgrad­ing from inter­net pro­to­col ver­sion four (IPv4) to ver­sion six (IPv6), he said, will allow for bet­ter net­work mobil­i­ty and allow cer­tain groups with­in the Defense Depart­ment to expe­dite their mis­sions.

Strance said the cur­rent plan is to main­tain IPv4 stan­dards while adding the nec­es­sary equip­ment to allow IPv6 when need­ed, also known as “dual-stack” capa­bil­i­ty.

“We want to make sure the infra­struc­ture is IPv6 capa­ble along with main­tain­ing IPv4,” he said. “But our phi­los­o­phy is one that when a com­po­nent has a mis­sion need or a busi­ness case to move to IPv6, then they can do that at rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle cost. It’s dri­ven by their need rather than an over­all [Depart­ment of Defense] man­date.”

The IP address of a device is an iden­ti­fy­ing num­ber assigned so net­work admin­is­tra­tors can see who or what is access­ing their net­work. In addi­tion to the inter­net itself, IP is employed for voice over IP (VoIP) tele­phones, video tele­con­fer­enc­ing and oth­er secured lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

The crunch, he said, is large­ly attrib­ut­able to the mass use of net­work-enabled devices, from smart­phones and iPads to lap­top com­put­ers to home appli­ances and devices con­nect­ed to net­works. Portable devices could have dozens, if not hun­dreds, of IP address­es assigned to them, because they’re designed to con­nect to net­works at all times.

“You can see it in the iPhone, the iPad, your com­put­er at home, cars being able to report sta­tus on issues, air­craft … in oth­er words, in the future every­thing will be address­able via IP for what­ev­er rea­son that is required, and that will take a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber more IP address­es than what’s cur­rent­ly avail­able today,” Strance said.

“I don’t forsee a cri­sis, per se … the big dri­ver, in my mind, exclud­ing DoD, will be the explo­sion of require­ment for IP address­es, giv­en where we are head­ed from a tech­nol­o­gy stand­point,” he added.

Con­verse­ly, he said, the Depart­ment of Defense net­works won’t be under the same strain. Advance­ments in Defense net­work­ing will be made on a case-by-case basis, when required for a mis­sion.

The department’s con­cern won’t be with abil­i­ty to move to the new pro­to­col, he said, but rather a con­cern about when it’s the best time to do so for tac­ti­cal use.

“We’re try­ing to move to an envi­ron­ment where future capa­bil­i­ties are in fact IPv6 capa­ble – whether that’s turned on or not – so when our users make a deci­sion that they need IPv6, they don’t have to do a fork­lift of their cur­rent equip­ment to go ahead and turn on IPv6,” Strance said.

There will be some equip­ment that won’t be moved to IPv6, Strance said, because of the mis­sion require­ment or cost of upgrad­ing that equip­ment ver­sus buy­ing new equip­ment. Because the net­work is dual-stacked, IPv4-capa­ble machines won’t be made obso­lete.

“The fore­cast by the Amer­i­can Reg­istry of Inter­net Num­bers say that they will issue the last of the IPv4 address space, prob­a­bly in 2011,” he said. “That’s prob­a­bly about accu­rate, but then again there are schemes or con­cepts that allow you to con­tin­ue to oper­ate v4, even after you’ve run out of v4 address space.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)