Electronic Product Design

Tuesday, 02 February 2016 00:00 Written by

IPv6 Celebrates 20th Birthday

02-02-16 - IP address-200Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) has turned the magnificent age of 20! And as of its 20th birthday has accumulated a steady 9.98% deployment throughout the world, with this number increasing all the time, from just 0.4% adoption in 2011.

The Internet Protocol Version dictates the number of IP addresses available for the Internet to grow into. As of 24th September 2015, North America exhausted its reserved allocation of addresses, forcing all new address to adopt the IPv6 protocol. This doesn’t mean the old IPv4 address will disappear, but a new protocol was required to give the Internet room to grow at its accustomed rate.

Despite IPv6 being around for two decades, the need to switch hasn’t been truly felt until now.

Not All Easy

Despite the very early indications that a new protocol would be needed, IPv4 and IPv6 do not always work well as a team. That is to say, they have poor communication. This isn’t entirely the fault of IPv6. When IPv4 was developed it made no allowance for communication with anything other than 32-bit addresses, meaning the arrival of the 128-bit IPv6 presents an immediate issue.

There are three commonly deployed compatibility choices: dual stack, tunnels, and translation. You won’t notice anything untoward on your system, but it is likely your connection is using one of those to enable interoperation on your network.

Configuring IPv6 Addresses

One of the biggest differences between IPv4 and IPv6 are the addresses. You’ll be used to seeing the standardised IPv4 address format 123.456.7.8[-901]. IPv6 changes this to eight groups of four hexadecimal digits, with the groups separated by colons, like so: 2014:0e4r:b98a:2398:a7b5:0000:0873:3b8c – which is more than a little mouthful. There are some translation conventions available, but many still result in a jumble of letters and numbers.

So, will the sudden rise in IPv6 addresses cause you any issues?

By and large, it really shouldn’t. The unseen routing protocols that govern most of our networking lives were updated long ago, and routers can handle 128-bit addresses in the same manner as IPv4. The only differences come with the devices receiving the information. Some older devices will need to be configured to communicate with an IPv6 address.

Luckily, manual configuration has always been an option, and remains to be so. In early IPv6 implementations statless autoconfigurations were somewhat common, and can still be handy in smaller networks.

Other small changes you may begin to notice will be the availability of network addresses in your network. IPv4 networks regularly use Network Address Translation (NAT) so multiple devices can share the use of one address. This was because individual address were limited, so this protocol was necessary to save space. IPv6 doesn’t have this problem, and as such, NAT does not exist. And as more and more of the Internet grows into the IPv6 space, we are likely to encounter these address with increasing frequency.

We haven’t finished with IPv4 yet, not by a long shot, but the slow crawl toward the IPv6 era is truly underway.


Image courtesy of coooldesign / freedigitalphotos.net.

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