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Why is IPv6 better?

About IPv4

The communication between millions of computers and network endpoints (e.g.: printers, cameras, mobile devices, etc.) around the world is done using a common language, which is called the Internet Protocol (IP). In this system, network endpoints (computers, printers, cameras, mibile devices, etc.) are identified by a so-called IP address, which is in its fourth generation, hence the name: IPv4.

An IPv4 address may look like the following sequence of numbers: 84.2.36.220

In this format all of it’s elements represent 8 bits. All bits can show two values (0 and 1), which means that one element can appear in 2 8 versions. As a result, this type of numeric system can distinguish among 2 32 IP addresses.

In the beginning, this type of addressing was absolutely satisfactory, but because of the world wide web’s unexpected growth, network professionals are facing more and more issues. One of these problems is that the amount of distributed addresses is not enough. Each second, version 4 IP addresses are being distributed, which, according to preliminary estimations, shall be used up within a short period of time. Another problem is that the protocol does not support mobility, and it is not possible to support encryption built into the protocol.

IPv6 was created to solve the above issues. However, the implementation of IPv6 is complicated by the fact that, although the two versions are similar in many ways, they handle data packages, transmitted through the network, differently, hence, they cannot operate concurrently.

A few words about IPv6

IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) is the next version after IPv4. Instead of the 32 bits used by IPv4 for addressing, IPv6 uses 128 bits for the same purpose - which theoretically makes it possible to assign 2  128 addresses - hence, it offers long term solutions to most of the problems that emerged while using IPv4.

For example, an IPv6 address looks like the following sequence of numbers: 2001:4C48:100:162:8C40:CCB:1FC0:1723

The 128 bit IPv6 address is usually represented as 8 groups of up to 4 hexadecimal digits that are separated with colons, where each element stands for 16 bits.

As a result, all devices connected to the network will have a public, globally unique IPv6 address that can be sent over the Internet, which renders the Network Address Translation (NAT) service, used by firewalls and routers in IPv4 networks, unnecessary. This is needed because this way the central element of a given subnet, for example, a router, would get only one unique IPv4 IP address, then, with a built-in function, it would give unique identification to each endpoint of the subnet - which however, won’t be unique on the Internet.

The advantages of IPv6 over IPv4

IPv6 has many additional advantages over IPv4 besides the fact that it has a larger address space:

  • IPv6 has a built-in feature to support multicast 1 transmission, while it was only optional in case of IPv4. IPv6 devices set one, only locally available and valid IPv6 address to all clients on the network connected to the subnets, which enables communication with all endpoints connected to a given subnet, regardless of whether a router is present. 2
  • IIn terms of security solutions, the IPv6 protocol contains mandatory built-in IPsec support (verification and encryption), while in case if IPv4 this feature is only optional
  • In case of IPv4 the maximum limit for data package size is 64 kB (kilobyte), while with IPv6 this size can go up to 4 GB (gigabytes), which significantly increases the speed of data transmission.

You can find further details about IPv6 on the following sites:

On the following sites you can test if the service is already working on your devices:ű

Application and services operating on IPv6

Today there are numerous applications that support IPv6, it would be too long to list all of them. You can find useful information on the following English language sites about which operating systems and network applications can co-operate with the new protocol:

Operating Systems

Network applications

Google and IPv6 (Google over IPv6)

The world’s leading internet search engine makes every effort to have its services available through the IPv6 protocol as well. Currently, the following Google services work through IPv6: Google search (picture, blog, code search), Google Alerts, Google Docs, Google Finance, Gmail, Google Health, iGoogle, Google News, Google Reader, Picasa and Google Maps.

You can find further information about the operation of IPv6 on the following website:

http://www.google.com/intl/en/ipv6/

1 Multicast is a type of connection on the internet which - as opposed to the traditional one (unicast) - can connect not only two, but any number of computers. In these cases data do not have to be sent to each device separately, rather, it is enough to send them once to a group address, which represents a significant saving of bandwidth compared to unicast.

2 Additionally, IPv6 supports DHCPv6  and SLAAC (Stateless Address Auto-) based configuration of network addresses. Thanks to the latter, IPv6 clients can generate and configure their own globally accessible and unique addresses, after being connected to an IPv6 network and router.