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Will Smart Grid Power IPv6?

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The Obama administration's effort to transform the U.S.'s electric transmission system into a smart grid could help accelerate the adoption of the next-generation Internet standard IPv6. The Smart Grid would deploy new smart electric meters, automated utility substations, and new sensor networks capable of capitalizing on the abundant space and built-in security provided by IPv6.

The White House recently announced that it has awarded $3.4 billion in stimulus grants to electric utilities in support of 100 modernization projects. The grants are being matched by private sector funds for a total investment of more than $8 billion in the U.S.'s electricity grids over the next three years. Federal officials say the Smart Grid will support Internet standards, though it is still undecided whether it will support the current Internet architecture built on IPv4 or whether it will help promote IPv6. Although IPv6 has been available for more than a decade, its adoption has been slow due to a lack of an urgent driver to compel companies to upgrade their routers, servers, and applications to support IPv6. However, IPv4 is approaching the limits of its capacity in terms of space, and Internet experts say it is critical for Smart Grid projects to embrace IPv6.

"If Smart Grid is going to be successful, it will support tens of millions of devices or potentially hundreds of millions of devices," says American Registry for Internet Number CEO John Curran. "We don't have that much IPv4 address space left for that project."

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) also is pushing for IPv6's adoption. "IPv6 is honestly a better solution," says former IETF chair Fred Baker. "If you're putting 5,000 homes in a single subnet, you can do that in IPv4, but I wouldn't want to try it . . . . We can do it in a simpler, more scalable and more robust way with IPv6."

From Network World
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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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