IPv6 is the next generation of the internet protocol. IPv6 is the new version of the Internet address protocol that has been developed to supplement (and eventually replace) IPv4, the version that underpins the Internet today. When IPv4 came out, they figured that an estimated 4.294 billion addresses would be enough. It turns out that this internet thing really caught on and there’s actually a shortage of IP addresses. To remedy this situation, there have been many proposed solutions, but the one that has really caught on with the techs around the world is IPv6.
Difference Between IPv4 and IPv6.
IPv6 has a number of improvements and simplifications when compared to IPv4.
The primary difference are
- IPv6 uses 128 bit addresses as compared to the 32 bit addresses used with IPv4. This means that there are more available IP addresses using IPv6 than are available with IPv4 alone.
- IPv4 there is a total of 4,294,967,296 IP addresses. With IPv6, there is a total of 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 IP addresses in a single /64 allocation.
- A major difference between IPv6 and IPv4 is the address notation. IPv4 uses a period (.) between each octet, compared to IPv6 which uses a colon (:)
- In IPv6, if you have series of zeroes in a row, you can use a double colon (::) to represent that series of zeroes, however you can only use that once.
- For example, if you have an address like “2001:0FB8:0000:0003:0000:01FF:0000:002E”, it can be written like “2001:FB8::3:0:1FF:0:2E” or “2001:FB8:0:3:0:1FF::2E”, but would never be written like “2001:FB8::3::1ff::2E”. You also cannot have three colons in a row (:::)
How will IPv6 solve the problem of IPv4 address exhaustion?
Simply by having a lot more address space to uniquely identify devices that are connected to the Internet. IPv4 has a theoretical maximum of about 4 billion addresses whereas IPv6 has an unthinkable theoretical maximum: about 340 trillion, trillion, trillion addresses. In actual use, IPv6 addresses are structured for routing and other purposes and as a result the number of addresses available is effectively less, but still extremely large.
For the end user, the large amount of IPv6 address space means:
- Home users will generally be given blocks of addresses sufficient to number multiple networks and thousands of devices.
- Enterprises and small businesses will generally be given enough to number a substantial number of networks and tens of thousands of devices; while larger sites will get significantly more.
What happens when IPv4 address pool is finally depleted?
No effect will be there to existing devices and networks connected that are connected to IPv4, addresses will continue to work as they do now. In same time IPv4-based networks are expected to co-exist with IPv6-based networks at the same time.
However, for network operators and other entities that rely on Internet numbering allocations, it will become increasingly difficult and expensive to obtain new IPv4 address space to grow their networks. The cost and complexity associated with keeping track of and managing remaining IPv4 address space efficiently will also increase.
Therefore, network operators and enterprises will need to implement IPv6 in order to ensure long-term network growth and global connectivity.
Are there other advantages to IPv6 besides increased address space?
The main advantage of IPv6 is that it provides much more address space. Being a more recent protocol, IPv6 does have a few design improvements over IPv4, particularly in the areas of autoconfiguration, mobility, and extensibility. However, increased address space is the main benefit of IPv6.
Is IPv6 ready for deployment now?
There are three basic aspects involved in the deployment of IPv6: the protocol, the products, and the operational practices.
The IPv6 Protocol
IPv6 has benefited from over 10 years of development within the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The core standards have been stable for many years and deployed in both research and operational contexts. In addition to the core specifications, IPv6 includes a large number of individual standards that have a more limited applicability and are only needed in specialised environments. Additional development work will continue in these areas as new issues are discovered in response to deployment-specific scenarios. Like the continuing evolution of IPv4, there will always be updates and additions to IPv6 in response to deployment experience. Thus, even though the core IPv6 specifications are stable, there will continue to be ongoing work on IPv6-related specifications.
The core IPv6 specifications are becoming increasingly available as a standard part of products and service offerings. However, not all products are fully IPv6 capable at this time and some significant upgrade gaps remain, especially in low-end consumer equipment. Similarly, while many software applications and operating systems (especially in open source code) have already been updated for IPv6, not all products (including some from major vendors) are fully IPv6 ready. It is best to check with specific vendors on the IPv6 readiness of their individual products and services. In addition, in-house application software or custom code that interfaces with the network will likely need updating for IPv6.
IPv6 Operational Practices
Operational practices built up over many years for IPv4 networks will have to be adapted for IPv6. There is growing experience in the deployment of IPv6 in research networks and R&D projects, while some production networks (primarily in Japan and Korea) have been running IPv6 for a number of years. IPv6 traffic today, however, remains small in comparison to IPv4. As more network operators deploy IPv6 and continue to exchange information about experience and best practices through established operators groups, the IETF, and other forums, the community knowledge level will grow.
In summary, IPv6 is ready for deployment, but additional effort is needed to make its use pervasive. The IETF, equipment vendors, application developers, network operators and end users all have roles to play in ensuring the successful wide-spread deployment of IPv6.
Many Operating System platforms have native IPv6 support these days. The UNIX based platforms like Linux, BSD (Free, Open, Net) &MacOSX have had IPv6 support enabled for years now. Microsoft Windows starting having native IPv6 support enabled by default with its Vista and Windows 2008 products. Even common web browsing and email software will use IPv6 if it is enabled and available, without having to check off an option or special configuration. The transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is being worked on to be as seamless as possible, and many might not even notice the subtle changes in the coming years.