Have you switched to IPv6 already?

220px-World_IPv6_launch_logo.svgThe Next Generation Internet Protocol (IPv6) is coming

Today, 06.06.2012, is a big day for IPv6, also known as Next Generation Internet Protocol, or IPng. Many big companies like Facebook and Yahoo! officially start providing their pages through IPv6. Actually, most of them have already adopted IPv6 but on separate pages like ipv6.cisco.com. Starting today the DNS records will include an AAAA (IPv6) record for their main sites as well. But why are they doing that? Let’s take a look at IPv6 and see what its main advantages are.

Initially, the Internet was built on the IP protocol v4, which is still largely used. However, nobody expected the Internet to become so global and so used. With today’s smart phones, tablets, laptops, along with the regular PCs, all needing Internet access, the addresses that IPv4 provides are not nearly enough. IPv6 was designed to overcome this and other IPv4 restrictions. But what happened to IPv5? Well, another protocol got this name. It’s the Internet Stream Protocol used for transmission of voice, video, and distributed simulation. IPv5 differs from IPv4 by being connection-oriented and by guaranteeing Quality of Service (QoS).

Now back to IPv6. It was supposed to become largely used back in the 90s. However, the use of NAT (Network Address Translation) and CIDR (Classless Inter Domain Routing) slowed the process a little. The need of IPv6 was not that clear with these technologies in place. Its main advantage is definitely the larger address space. While IPv4 supports only 232 addresses, IPv6 supports 2128, or 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 addresses. (340 undecillion, 282 decillion, 366 nonillion, 920 octillion, 983 septillion, 463 sextillion, 463 quintillion, 374 quadrillion, 607 trillion, 431 billion, 768 million, 211 thousand and 456!) Can you count or even imagine that much?

Another great feature IPv6 brings to the scene is the auto configuration, or Plug and Play functionality, of new devices connecting to the Internet.

Everything new these days is focused on Security. IPv6 is much more secure than IPv4. Security is built into IPv6 and it supports both encryption of the transmitted information and authentication of the source trying to communicate. And most importantly, IPv6 is created by design to be easily extensible so that new functionality can be adopted whenever they’re invented.

Now that you understand the basics of IPv6, maybe you’re wondering, what if my ISP hasn’t adopted IPv6 yet? Will I be able to connect to these main sites that are now reachable through IPv6? The answer, of course, is Yes. But how?  Modern technologies, such as TCP/IP Dual Layer and Dual Stack make that possible. IPv6 will be the preferred method of connection. However, IPv4 will still be supported on these sites for backward compatibility with devices that don’t support IPv6.

If IPv6 is so good, why didn’t they adopt it in the 90s? The answer is simple – it’s complicated! The IP address will be longer, meaning that a new architecture must be deployed through the routing software. For that to happen, everyone must agree. And there are always people that don’t like the idea of changing something that works. The process is happening, the transition to IPv6 is occurring right now, and the event today shows it. However, it’s a slow and painful process and it will need more time to be complete.

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