IPv6 Tutorial: The overview

I will start from the beginning; two weeks ago I wrote a post claiming that IPv4 is depleting and IPv6 is coming soon; and since we are considering deploying IPv6 soon in our network, I thought it might be useful to write about IPv6 migration and transition strategies. Although, this is important but I think the readers of this blog including me will benefit more if we start at the beginning even if it takes longer to get where I wanted to start.

I will start small and build up as we go toward the new IPv6 internet. Get yourself a cup of coffee,relax and lets start slowly. I promise it will be a nice journey.

Isn't IPv4 working well so far?

IPv4 has been working so well since the internet was born, but it will not be able to carry us in the future of the internet and the new applications that are emerging and evolving everyday. The internet has grown rapidly over the last decade and the need for addresses to support more devices is growing exponentially and simply IPv4 was not prepared for that growth.

But the address space was not the only motivation behind the creation of IPv6; for example some of the  motivations are: better management of the address space, more built-in security, better support for multicast , QOS and more mobility.

IPv6 is also called IPng or IP next generation; it builds on the best characteristics of IPv4 instead of building something from scratch; in other words, we are sticking with what we know works and make some required improvements instead of building the whole thing over.

Some of the Major Changes  in IPv6 vs IPv4 are:

  • IPv6 has a new header format.
  • Bigger address space 128 bits instead 32 bits for IPv4.
  • Support of stateless and stateful address configuration.
  • Built-in security support.
  • Better support for quality of service.
  • New neighbor discovery and interaction mechanisms.
  • More extensibility.

Those are not all the changes, but they are some of the major changes and features that were added to IPv6 to overcome some of the discovered limitations in IPv4. We will consider some of them in more detail in later posts.

If IPv6 is so good, why IPv4 still existing till today?

IPv6 was introduced in 1995, this is about 20 years ago and regardless all the improvements that were made to IPv6, the Internet is still using IPv4.

The main reason behind that was "Why to change something that is proven to work by something we are not familiar with". The investment and the effort for this move was not justifiable. IPv4 is working well and satisfying our needs; yes it has some limitations but not the ones that justifies such dramatic changes to move to IPv6.

Now, IPv4 is not enough anymore, its just not enough; that's why we have to face the facts and know that IPv4 is going and IPv6 is taking the lead very soon and we will be part of this.

IPv6 standards and working groups:

For more information about IPv6 standards and specifications please follow this link for IP version 6 working group.

In the next post I will go a little bit deeper in the protocol specifications and some technical issues.

IF you are interested in this series, let me know to keep it going. I'll See you soon.

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