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Anyone looking to improve the security and scalability of their Internet activities has had IPv6 earmarked for a while, writes John McIntosh of Bloor Research.

IPv6, as specified by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), is an upgrade to the IPv4 protocol currently used. The reasoning behind IPv6 is that the growing need for more secure, always-on Internet connectivity will outstrip IPv4's capabilities in the not too distant future.

IPv6 has been designed to exponentially increase the pool of available IP addresses and offers the ability to scale to virtually limitless numbers of users and Internet appliances. IPv6 also supports improved end-to-end security, quality of service, packet level support, facilitation of mobile communications and better systems management.

Some organisations which started to experiment with IPv6 in production networks last year raised concerns that few security tools, including firewalls, were available for the new protocol.

It seems that the wait is over, well almost. NetScreen has recently "made available to qualified customers" a new version of the Company's ScreenOS technology. In so doing it may well be the first to demonstrate IPv6 support for both stateful inspection firewall and VPN functions.

Not that NetScreen is alone: it is certainly ahead of Cisco, which announced its IPv6 in June, and Internet Security Systems which announced product, also a few weeks ago.

NetScreen's pilot release provides encryption, firewall, denial of service protection and other core security and networking functions that exist in NetScreen's current IPv4 compatible operating system.

The Company has been smart enough to make sure that IPv4 is well supported. To this end they have implemented a dual-stack architecture that enables auto sensing of IPv6 or IPv4, allowing quick translation or processing of traffic in the appropriate IP-version.

These conversions can include "4 to 6" and "6 to 4" tunneling, as well as "4 to 6" and "6 to 4" translation. This dynamic translation and trafficking capability should enable enterprises and service providers to easily expand their networks and perform a seamless migration to IPv6 without immediately upgrading their existing IPv4 network infrastructure.

It has been a busy year for NetScreen. Along with all the product developments, including introduction of the low-end, NetScreen-5GT, multi-function appliance, the company has takensome of its products through to EAL4 accreditation and OSEC verification.

In so doing, NetScreen has been able to maintain its position as market leader of the high-end category of VPN and firewall appliances, in terms of units sold, and is on the podium for both the mid-range appliance market and overall revenue worldwide in terms of total VPN and firewall appliance market share.

It has achieved this by boosting revenues by over 75% in the first three quarters of this financial year. Despite the company claiming that the SARS epidemic will impact fourth quarter revenues to slow growth to about 5% for that quarter, the outlook appears to be healthy.

NetScreen anticipates the introduction of a NetScreen ScreenOS version that includes more advanced IPv6 features for pilot production deployments in the first half of 2004 and availability of a full-featured IPv6 compatible version of ScreenOS for production environments in the second half of 2004.

With a strong product portfolio and a lead in terms of product and market share, the NetScreen looks well positioned to capitalise on one of the fastest growing sectors in the IT security industry.

© IT-Analysis.com

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