Back in 1966, when the United States military invented the ARPA network program, who would have thought that the internet would eventually become so pervasive, not only throughout the United States, but also the world? Most everyone I know has a computer (a laptop or desktop), a tablet, an internet enabled game device like PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, or a smart phone. Some even have all of the above! What most people don’t realize is that with each one of those devices, you have to have an IP address to ensure that you can connect to the internet. Because more and more people around the world are using more internet enabled devices, the world is very quickly running out of IP addresses. History of IPv6
Up until very recently, every device used an Internet Protocol Version 4 (or IPv4) address. Since those addresses are becoming more scarce by the day, “the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) initiated, as early as 1994, the design and development of a suite of protocols and standards now known as the Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6)”. (1) The goal of this new protocol was to effectually maintain the continually growing population of internet enabled devices. IPv6 will eventually phase out and replace IPv4.
Now you may ask, why are we running out of IPv4 addresses? Besides the fact that it seems that everybody and their mother has some sort of internet enabled device, IPv4 has approximately four billion IP addresses. Now at a first glance that may seem like a lot. But if you consider that according to a study by the NPD group, earlier this year, there are more than 500 million internet enabled devices in homes in the United States. That would be 5.7 devices for each household, including smart phones. (2) Now that’s just the U.S. That doesn’t include the rest of the world. Comparison of IPv4 and IPv6
There are several differences in IPv4 and IPv6. The main difference in the two is the use of address space that contains addressing information to route packets for the Internet. IPv4 uses a 32 bit address space and as mentioned earlier, only has about four billion IP addresses. IPv6 uses a 128 bit address space and can support 2^128, or 3.4 x 10^38 addresses (or to put it into perspective, 340,282,366,920,938,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 addresses). (3) The extensive address length of IPv6 also makes it unnecessary to use network address translation (NAT), like we have been using with IPv4, to keep from running out of addresses. IPv4 addresses are denoted in decimal dot notation (192.168.10.0), while IPv6 is denoted by hexadecimal notations separated by colons (2006:bacd:0000:0000:0000:0000:4821:5769). Also with IPv4, the address mask is used to designate the network from the host portion of the address. Whereas there is not an address mask used in IPv6. IPv6 uses a subnet prefix instead, which is written as /nnn (up to 3 decimal digits) after the print form. Following is an example of this: fe80::982:2a5c/10. Another difference in IPv4 and IPv6 is how they are classified. IPv4 addresses are split into 3 different types of addresses: network address, host address and broadcast address. The network address is the address that we use to refer to the network. The host address is the address used to identify the host or “end-device”. The broadcast address is the address used to send data to all hosts within the network. Whereas, the IPv6 addresses consist of Unicast, Multicast and Anycast address. A Unicast address sends information from one source (or computer) to another. A Multicast address sends data from one source to multiple sources. An Anycast address identifies multiple interfaces but only delivers to one (whichever one is the closest in terms of routing distance). IPv6 also has built in security in that it “provides header extensions that ease the implementation of encryption, authentication and Virtual Private Networks”. (4) Extensibility is another difference in the...
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