Injecting a sense of urgency in Tamil Nadu government departments is the main challenge

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has started compiling an inventory of all computer networks used by government departments, State and Central public sector undertakings and banks across Tamil Nadu for finalising a plan for transition to the next generation Internet address, IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6).

The list will segregate the entire network architecture in these organisations into computer equipment, servers, switches and routers that will only require reconfiguring or minor tweaking of hardware-software to make them IPv6-enabled, and gear that need replacement.

The DoT’s road map envisaged complete migration to IPv6 by 2017-end as the address capacity of IPv4 had been exhausted. Besides freeing up space for more Internet users, the other benefits of the move to IPv6 include better quality of service for consumers, support for high-end applications and better security features. It is also proposed that the actual migration work will adopt a dual stack that will support both IPv4 and IPv6 platforms.

“The inventory will provide clarity on what the cost estimate will be for each stakeholder. In any case, our surmise is that the investment will be not too huge for a stakeholder” said D. Thamizhmani, Director, DoT’s Network and Technologies Cell, Chennai, mandated to oversee the migration.

Though the DoT had instructed government organisations to come up with a detailed transition plan by December, 2013, it is now obvious that this deadline will be missed in most of the States, including Tamil Nadu. The DoT’s Network and Technologies Cell (NT Cell) has been engaged in holding consultations and awareness workshops among stakeholders such as government departments, PSUs, banks, telecom companies and Internet Service Providers.

In Tamil Nadu, the DoT Cell is dealing with 300 stakeholders, including 137 State departments/PSUs, 50 Central PSUs and 27 banks. Though the Cell is also addressing telecom companies and Internet Service Providers, they are reckoned to be in a better state of preparedness for the changeover.

At the moment though, even a large telecom company like BSNL is yet to activate the migration process. “We are yet to identify equipment that will need an upgrade,” said a spokesperson for BSNL Chennai Telephones, which has network infrastructure catering to more than a million mobile users and about 4 lakh broadband connections.

DoT officials say the main challenge is to inject a sense of urgency in State government departments, especially as there is no imminent threat of a computer shutdown as was the case with Y2K.

At a recent workshop held by the DoT, only half the 80-odd government departments were present. At the workshop, led by R.M. Agarwal, Deputy Director General, DoT, Delhi, IT Principal Secretary T.K. Ramachandran said he hoped that similar sessions would be held for all departments that were not represented.

DoT officials are optimistic that the inventory will be ready by March-April, based on which a transition plan can be worked out.

As per the DoT’s time line for migration, the public interface of all government projects for delivery of citizen-centric services should be on dual stack supporting IPv4 and IPv6 traffic latest by January 1, 2015.