The Internet is broken, but don’t worry IPv6 will fix it
February 3, 2006
What is IPv6?
IPv6 is a new protocol for transferring information over the
Internet. Essentially IPv6 is a new way
of assigning addresses to devices connected to the Internet. In IPv4, or past Internet standards, the addresses assigned follow a maximum of
three numbers grouped in four like 220.127.116.11.
The best way to describe IP in “people terms” is to think of
the Internet as a giant telephone system. Except instead of getting a telephone
number like 703-555-5555 a communication device gets an IPv4 number like 18.104.22.168 . The problem with IPv4 is that the IP
numbers, or “pc phone numbers”, are expected to run out in 2009. Several years ago engineers came up with a
“quick fix” solution called routers.
What is a router?
Think of a router like the telephone switchboard of a company. A call comes into a main switchboard and
then the switchboard assigns an extension like 703-555-5555 Extension 105.
That’s what an IPv4 router does, it acts like a switchboard. The problem is that routers don’t assign
direct extensions to each PC because they generally have a limited number of
“extensions” to give out. Most routers
assign an “in house” random IP or an “unused extension” every time you turn on your
PC. IPv6 solves this problem by being
able to give each device connected to the Internet its own IP address. In simple terms, every PC\device gets its
own “phone number” so it can be called directly.
So let’s look at what an IPv6 address(or computer phone
number) looks like compared to an IPv4 address.
IPv4 vs IPv6
IPv4 address format: Four groups of numbers separated
by periods. Each number cannot exceed
255 due to memory requirements. An
example of an IPv4 address is 22.214.171.124
IPv6 address format: Eight groups of numbers and letters A-F seperated
by semi-colons. Each group of numbers and letters is limited to four. An example of an IPv6 address is FEDC:BA98:7654:3210:FEDC:BA98:7654:3210
As you can see IPv6 offers more addresses.
Why is IPv6 Important?
IPv6 is important because IPv4 addresses are estimated to
run out in 2009. IPv6 also provides a 20% increase in the speed of routing
packets because routing tables and translations can be simplified. IPv6 also assigns specific addresses to
certain types of devices like media devices or unicast devices. By knowing what type of traffic is being
transmitted from devices the Internet can more efficiently decide how to
transported specific data. One good
example of this is transmitting video and sound data where little feedback is
needed during transmission. If we lose
a television signal for a second we can probably survive, but losing banking
data for a second is a different story.
Who and Where?
In general, IPv6 will affect all areas of the world. Developing countries will be the most
affected by IPv6 address allocations.
As developing countries build their Internet infrastructure they will
need to acquire IP addresses at an increasing rate. Currently the United States is the largest holder of allocated
IPv4 addresses. The United States owns
about half of the IPv4 addresses with Japan as a distance second. Africa barely shows up in statistics for IP
addresses. It is important to note that
an IP address is specific to devices not people. As Internet devices and sensors continue to grow and become web
aware each person may end up with 5 or more IP addresses. Sample uses for IPv6 addresses are cell
phones, GPS devices, laptops, TiVO, cable modems, cable TV remote boxes, remote
webcams, security systems, payment devices, car computer devices, satellite
radio, lighting systems, remote gaming devices, RFID keys and many more.
What software will IPv6 impact?
The largest types of software and computer devices that will
be directly affected by new IPv6 assignments are Internet communication
hardware, remote sensors and communication software. In general applications such as word processing, accounting and
graphic software will not be affected by IPv6, only applications that rely heavily on
Internet data. Microsoft has included IPv6 in XP2 and all of its server
products. Microsoft’s new Vista product
will expand the capabilities of the Microsoft operating system with a tighter
coupled IPv6 core.
Most major ISP’s have already converted their main backbones
to IPv6. However only a few are
offering the service to residential consumers currently. IPv6 is being rolled out to major Internet users first.
These major Interent users include hosting providers and
main Internet service providers.
The current Internet2 used by United States
Universities, US Department of Defense offices and field support are currently
running IPv6. All US government agencies
are required by OMB to be IPv6 compliant by 2008.
Most major router companies such as Cisco already include
the Ipv6 protocol on their latest routers and Internet switches. In most cases enabling IPv6 is as simple as
turning on a switch on the router to allow IPv6 packets to be transmitted. Some routers may require more memory to be
added to handle the expanded IP addresses.
However many security programs such as firewalls and blocking software
are not setup to detect IPv6 traffic.
Specific IPv6 security compliant firewalls and tracking software are
IPv4 is not going away.
All major Internet sources say they will keep running IPv4 and be
backward to compatible to IPv4. In most cases dual protocols of IPv4 and IPv6
will be running on the same network. In
some cases IPv6 will be packaged or wrapped in IPv4 to be transmitted to IPv4
IPv6 presents a major step forward in increasing security
and eliminating the need to assign “fake” IP addresses to devices. IPv6 provides the much needed Internet
protocol to make live video and audio a reality. The switch to IPv6 will initially be implemented in test stages
with the exception of selected government and educational systems around the
world. IPv4 won’t go away, but it will
be like driving an old car on the Internet highway. The middle of 2007 is when IPv6 will mostly start impacting the