Believe it or not, the Internet has run out of addresses. This means we need to transition to a new addressing scheme, IPv6, that facilitates our growing need for Internet addresses and that helps our businesses grow. To access company networks and the Internet, each device or computer is assigned a logical address. That basically means that the address assigned to the computer or device (ie. smartphone) is temporary and can be easily assigned to any other device regardless of physical location. The Internet addressing scheme is known as IP – Internet Protocol. We’ve been using version 4 of the IP addressing scheme ,also known as IPv4, for quite some time.
The main problem with IPv4 is that there aren’t enough addresses for all the computers and Internet devices in the world, and that can result in lost connectivity. An IPv4 address is composed of 32 bits, or 32 ones and zeros. Any combination would result in a specific address. These 32 bits are represented in decimal form in the following notation as an example: 192.168.1.101. This results in a total theoretical base of 4,294,967,296 addresses that can be used. Since, we have run out of these addresses we need a new scheme that provides us with more addresses. This new scheme is called IPv6.
IPv6, The Savior
IPv6 uses 128 bits and that gives us 212˄8 (approximately 340 undecillion or 3.4×103˄8) addresses. That’s enough for 5×10˄28 addresses for each of the 6.8 billion people alive (as of this writing). This, for now, solves our problem with the limited addresses that IPv4 yields. This also saves us from using NAT (Network Address Translation) technologies, which usually results in security problems for devices inside the company network. The IPv6 protocol header is more efficient for routing of network data than the IPv4 header. This results in more efficient processing of data. Mobility with IPv6 is better than IPv4; as it allows mobile devices to move between networks while keeping the same IP address.
How to Transition to IPv6
IPv6 is installed on all new Microsoft Windows operating systems. This includes Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008. The network infrastructure itself also needs to be IPv6 capable. This means that the routers and layer 3 switches need to upgraded in order to process the extra address bits of IPv6. There are a number of techniques that you can use to gradually shift your business to using IPv6 from IPv4. Names and a brief description of each transition scheme is listed below:
This technique uses both IPv6 and IPv4 at the same time. Each network devices is usually capable of both protocol versions. If not, then it only communicates with those devices that are of its own protocol version. This method of transition is meant to slowly transfer control from IPv4 dependant devices to IPv6 devices.
These are IPv4 addresses that are mapped to an IPv6 address. The last 32 bits of the IPv6 contain the IPv4 address. This allows both IPv6 and IPv4 to run at the same time.
Tunneling involves encapsulating an IPv6 into a IPv4 header. The network uses two IPv6 points on an IPv4 infrastructure to transmit the data. There are many types of tunneling methods such as 6to4, Teredo, and ISATAP.
As you can see, there are a number of benefits and ways to transition your business from IPv4 to the new IPv6 addressing scheme. There is some security concern regarding IPv6 and the use of unidentified addresses to generate SPAM. IPv4 addresses that generate SPAM are blacklisted and are usually blocked, but since IPv6 opens up a new lot of available addresses, this can be used to generate SPAM. Although, eventually the IPv6 addresses would also be blacklisted, it may take sometime. Nevertheless, the transition to IPv6 is continuing, albeit at a slow and gradual pace, and the new avenues that it opens up for placing new devices on the growing Internet will be needed for some time to come.