Center Opens to Train New Web Protocol Users

By Kim Hart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 14, 2006

Command Information Inc., backed by venture capitalists to cash in on the expansion of the second-generation Internet, opened a training center in Herndon yesterday to help government agencies and businesses begin installing new technology.

Although the addressing system Internet Protocol Version 6 has been available for several years in Asia and Europe, the United States has only recently started to adopt the system. The federal government has mandated that all federal agencies move to the new system by 2008.

Command International's 400-person training center is among a number of competing initiatives set up to profit from the transition, an opportunity being pursued by start-up firms and computer giants alike.

SI International Inc., a Reston government contractor that provides information technology systems, is helping agencies adopt the IPv6 technology. Juniper Networks Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., a network-equipment maker with a sales office in Herndon, has urged customers to buy IPv6-compatible routers and modems and has also issued two reports to guide companies through the process. SynExi LLC, a Fairfax County start-up firm, is also aiming to help businesses and government groups upgrade their systems.

Command Information's new lab is the first of its kind in the country, positioning Northern Virginia as the "epicenter of the next-generation Internet," chief executive Tom Patterson said.

"It's clear that what microchips were to Silicon Valley, IPv6 is to Virginia," he said.

The new addressing system, which is expected to increase the speed, capacity and security of information traveling across the Internet, is replacing the 35-year-old system known as IPv4. The new technology, which was created in the mid-1990s because it was feared that the supply of about 4.2 billion available Internet addresses was running low. The next-generation system expands that supply into the trillions, allowing multiple devices to connect to the computer so that, for example, cellphones and cameras would always be online.

Companies capitalizing on the shift expect the federal government to be their biggest client in the next two years in a market expected to be worth tens of billions of dollars.

"Now that agencies have had more time to plan for the integration, we'll start to see more funding for IPv6 in 2007," said Charles Lynch, a consultant who helped write the federal policy regarding the technology and recently co-founded SynExi.

The increased spending for the upgrades has fueled Command Information's growth. The company was created in January with one employee and $20 million in venture capital funding from Carlyle Venture Partners and Novak Biddle Venture Partners. In February, the company merged with software-development company Digital Focus Inc. of Herndon, and has since added 100 employees, a number expected to reach 400 in less than a year.

Mainstream adoption of the new technology is to come quickly, though most consumers will not even realize they are using products enabled by IPv6, said Dale Geesey, who co-founded SynExi.

Vista, Microsoft Corp.'s new operating system that is scheduled for release early next year, automatically uses the new system, and many other products, such as firewalls and routers, are already compatible with it.

Until such devices are common in households and offices, Patterson expects most consumers to start with tools that allow older devices to use the new system. Command Information, for example, has partnered with Datatek Applications Inc. of Somerset, N.J., which sells a transformer that lets modems connect to the new structure, so consumers can upgrade at their own pace.

"Businesses are springing up left and right to build off this capability," Patterson said. "We'll start by building an island of IPv6-capable devices, and then we'll connect those islands that will launch a new business market for the next 25 years."

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