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Tester Makers Swoon Over Moonv6

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News Analysis
Light Reading

Publicity surrounding a round of IPv6 tests by the U.S. Department of Defense has drawn attention to the gear used to determine whether routers and other equipment conform to IPv6 specs (see DOD Test-Fires IPv6 ).

Four tester vendors donated equipment and personnel to the effort, called Moonv6: Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A), Ixia (Nasdaq: XXIA), Navtel Communications, and Spirent Communications.

These tester vendors volunteered their support and publicized their roles (see Agilent Validates IPv6 and Spirent Helps Defense Test). All are early implementers of IPv6 equipment, most importantly testers that prove conformance with the protocol specs, which was the focal point of this phase of trials. The next phase, which starts in January 2004, will go one more step towards setting benchmarks for performance of IPv6 gear, and it's already generating interest.

Major Roswell Dixon, United States Marine Corp., who is tactical networks test officer for the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) says his phone's been ringing since news of the completion of first-phase testing hit the streets this week. "Sixteen more vendors have expressed interest," he says.

One expert says the fuss about Moonv6 is understandable. With IPv6 taking off in the Asia/Pacific region and endorsed for U.S. government use (see IPv6 Coming to America), it's important for tester vendors to be counted among those on the leading edge. "There are a lot of folks implementing IPv6 routing right now, and they need test gear to see if their stuff works," writes David Newman, president of Network Test, an independent benchmarking and network design consultancy, in an email today.

By getting into the Moonv6 act early on, the vendors involved are looking to prove their readiness to help customers like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) develop the next wave of networking gear. Their participation also points to longstanding relationships with the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (IOL), which helped design the tests and provided one of the main locations for the first phase of live trials.

Still, it's important to note that results of the tests aren't open to the public, so the performance of different testers will remain a secret as far as Moonv6 is concerned.

Also, there seems to be a bit of one-upsmanship at work. Spirent, for instance, says its AX/4000 and SmartBits platforms and IPv6 software was the only test kit positioned throughout the several locations involved in the first Moonv6 test. The other gear, including Agilent's RouterTester 900, Ixia's 400T, and Navtel's InterWatch -- and the special IPv6 software and modules accompanying each -- ran at the UNH test site this time round.

Did Spirent play a unique role in Phase I of Moonv6? It's tough to tell. Major Dixon of JITC says Spirent is in more than one location because "they stood up and wanted to be there."

Spirent VP of technical strategy Mark Fishburn readily agrees. The IPv6 market's important to Spirent, he says, and the vendor hopes to accelerate deployment of products that use the protocol via its testing expertise. "We're happy to be involved. If the market doesn't exist, it's no good for anybody," Fishburn says.

Agilent's Rick Pearson, marketing manager for Communications Network Solutions, scoffs at the notion that Spirent played a more important role in the first phase of Moonv6. "There's some spin here," he says. Like Spirent, Agilent lays claim to having the inside track with the government agencies and UNH. But he says the key tasks took place in New Hampshire this time around, and Agilent was in on it.

Ixia spokeswoman Lori Choi says simply that Ixia isn't as large as Spirent, whose size allowed it to spare more boxes and personnel for the tests. And a spokesman for Navtel hadn't called back at press time.

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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