Smart Grid is on a fast track for deployment, and the question of whether it will embrace IPv6 should be determined by 2010.
NIST ramped up its 2-year-old Smart Grid effort in April after the modernization effort received billions of dollars in stimulus funds. In September, NIST issued a draft set of Smart Grid interoperability standards that refer to both IPv4 and IPv6, with a final version due by year's end.
NIST will establish a Smart Grid interoperability panel to oversee the standards development process going forward. The panel will be selected at Grid-Interop 2009, which is being held Nov. 17-19 in Denver.
The sheer size of the Smart Grid opportunity has attracted the attention of the nation's leading network vendors. BCC Research predicts the Smart Grid market will grow from $17.3 billion in 2008 to $37.4 billion in 2014. Among the network vendors that are eyeing this opportunity are Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and Google.
Smart Grid "is huge," Shockey says. "This is the biggest re-engineering of a data communications structure outside of a telco that I've seen in the last 15 years…There's no doubt in my mind that every data communications company in North America is looking at this."
That's why Shockey and others are hoping Smart Grid will help drive IPv6 deployment.
"Somebody needs to tell the electric industry that it's self evident that the Smart Grid standards have to be engineered for IPv6," Shockey says.