IPv6 is the next generation of internet. It was developed by IETF in 1998 primarily to replace the older version IPv4. IPv4 is the current network layer protocol on which the Internet depends. But IPv4 has a serious issue, which is, that it has only 4.3 billion theoretical addresses, which have to be used by the entire devices in the world.
Back when the engineers designed IPv4 they didn’t for see that network devices would explode in a matter of years where the no. of devices far go ahead of the number of IPv4 addresses which are required by these devices to connect to the Internet.
I would say that IPv4 was good design, which is why it still is doing strong after so many years even though IPv6 is around, but people back then didn’t imagine such rapid expansion of the Internet.
Over these years IPv4 has faced depletion issues, which forced scientists to develop techniques to tackle this issue. That is why classless addressing was introduced and ultimately NAT came to the rescue which further extended the life of IPv4 for many years to come.
Engineers also realized that IPv4 addresses would ultimately end which made them to develop IPv6 as the ultimate solution, for may be decades to come.
But some think we won’t be needing any update after IPv6 because if we do a little math then we come to conclusion that we can have About 670 quadrillion addresses per square millimeter of the Earth’s surface!! That’s sure too much!!
To be precise there are 3.4×10e38 addresses in IPv6 as it is of 128 bits compared to 32 bits in IPv4. It is a written as hexadecimal numbers to reduce complexity in working with is as it is huge number.
There are three types of address scopes in IPv6:
1. Link Local
2. Site Local
There are enough addresses in IPv6 that every device on this planet can have its own global routable IP address which eliminates the need of good old NAT. However other scopes were developed for configuration ease in internal networks using subnetting.
IPv6 has several new features namely:
1. Auto Configuration
2. Better Mobile IP Option
3. Built in IPSEC
4. Multicast Addressing (No Broadcast)
5. Anycast Addressing
6. Additional Flow Label field for QoS
7. Routing Efficiency
8. Jumbogram upto 4GB
9. Simpler Header
These features however look new at first glance but, technically speaking IPv4 also offers almost the same features some how or the other, which makes it hard to make business case for enterprises.
Who Should Switch To IPv6?
As most critics would claim that IPv4 can do almost the same as IPv6 can do, so why would one invest so heavily on transition from IPv4 to IPv6?
This is really a good question and there is no good answer to it, because on the Internet, most businesses can do fine with IPv4 for some years to come, but ultimately they would have to make the transition so why not now? I am not telling that one should jump into the band wagon immediately instead going steady and slow would be the way to go.
However companies, who see growth in their businesses, would definitely require IPv6 addresses to meet the customer demands. Mobile companies are definitely the ones who will make transition to IPv6, because IPv6 opens the doors for 3G and 4G mobile Internet, with the benefits of unlimited routable addresses and no triangulation as in case of IPv4.
So mobile companies should make a move now. Also the ISPs who are the first ones to buy IPv6 blocks and sell them to these mobile companies will definitely be on top of their game.
Companies offering Triple Play services can also expand their businesses using the vast address space of IPv6.
M&A costs and hassle for large enterprises can be eliminated using IPv6 unique addresses. So no address conflicts, no re-structuring of address allocation. Infact with increasing bandwidth of the Internet VPNs could essentially become the true best solution combined with IPv6 unique addresses and features, thus will also eliminate the cost of WAN connections, medium sized businesses are more likely to take advantage of this.
Room For Improvement
Although people don’t see IPv6 a compulsory requirement for most current services offered on the Internet, I think this is because our applications and technologies are limited because we don’t have enough bits to play with.
There are a still lot of unused bits in IPv6 header and room for further expansion that can allow engineers to add new features which could change our Internet and allow further growth E.g.: ‘Flow label’ field in IPv6 header can allow much room for improvement in QoS, which could change the way we use VoIP today.
As I mentioned above, several new and “cheap” technologies can develop and benefit from this room of expansion like:
1. Improved P2P applications with no NAT will eliminate the need of a client server model. This can allow us to move into improved VPNs, security can also be enhanced by development of new security protocols.
2. Cloud computing will greatly benefit from IPv6
3. New SIP based VoIP services can develop; VoIP service providers like Skype can switch towards mobile VoIP.
4. RFID and IPv6 based online inventory tracking mechanism
5. IPv6 based online electrical generation equipment, which can allow remote monitoring for managing consumer load. Smart IPv6 enabled Electricity Meters can also develop.
6. Online financial transaction models used by Banks and others can introduce new features allowing true mobile banking.
7. IP based storage system with security features leading to true cloud computing.
These are only some of the new innovations. Infact numerous benefits can be sought once we have this IPv6 Internet everywhere. But companies have to first make this brave move to switch into the future.