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Internet Protocol v6 (IPv6) Overview

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A protocol is a set of rules that establish how different devices interact and communicate with each other. Internet Protocol (IP) is a communication system that relays "datagrams", or packets, between devices on a network. It is the primary protocol of the Internet. Every device that is connected to a network is assigned a unique IP address that allows the device to be located and identified. If two devices on the same network share an IP address, then a conflict exists, and the two devices will not be able to receive data packets through the network. Data centers act as the link between an internal network and an external network, such as the Internet. As IPv4 addresses reach exhaustion it is critical that data centers are capable of supporting the IPv6 protocol.

Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6), is a new version of the Internet Protocol designed to succeed the current Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4). One of the major driving factors for the development of IPv6 is the number of available addresses. IPv4 uses a 32-bit address format, ex., which provides for approximately 4.3 billion addresses. With the large number of computers, home entertainment devices and mobile devices connected to the Internet, the number of available addresses within IPv4 is quickly reaching its limit. On the other hand IPv6 uses a 128-bit address format, ex. 2001:db8:85a3::8a2e:370:7334, which will support approximately 340 undecillion addresses, where an undecillion is a 1 followed by 36 zeros. This large number of available addresses is expected to provide enough addresses for the foreseeable future. In addition to the increase in available addresses, IPv6 will also provide the following features:

  • Multicast - This feature will allow for the transmission of a single data packet to multiple destinations in a single send operation. This was an optional feature in IPv4 and will be a base specification in IPv6.
  • Stateless Address Auto Configuration (SLAAC) - This feature allows a host device to automatically configure an address when connected to an IPv6 network.
  • Jumbograms - This feature allows packet sizes to reach a payload of 4,294,967,295 octets. An octet is a group of 8 bits. Previously, IPv4 limited packet sized to a payload of 65,535 octets. This allows a larger amount of data to be transferred in a shorter amount of time.
  • Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) - This feature secures communications over the Internet by authenticating and encrypting each IP packet. This was an optional feature that saw widespread use with IPv4. IPv6 mandates that this feature is used.
  • Geolocation - This feature lines up IPv6 addresses with squares or hexagons across the Earth's surface. This allows latitude and longitude to be scaled down to nearly microscopic granularity.
  • Packet Format - This feature simplifies the packet header and the process of packet forwarding. This allows routers to be more efficient and will extend the end to end principle of the Internet.
  • Mobile - This feature allows IPv6 to avoid the triangular routing and use of a proxy server that was used in IPv4. This feature allows Mobile IPv6 to be as efficient as native IPv6.

It is important to note that IPv6 is not a simple upgrade of IPv4. For the most part IPv6 and IPv4 are largely incompatible at the packet level. This means that IPv6 and IPv4 are considered separate networks and separate protocols. Currently IPv6 is in various stages of deployment. As of May 2011 some companies have already implemented IPv6 into their networks. On June 8, 2011 the Internet Society along with several other companies and organizations held World IPv6 Day, a global 24-hour test of IPv6. It is expected that IPv6 will see more widespread adoption as IPv4 reaches address exhaustion. The result of the testing on June 8 was largely successful. Over 1,000 websites and Internet service providers from nearly 400 participating organizations enabled IPv6 on their main services for a 24- hour period. During this period the vast majority of users were able to access website services from the participating sites without issue. This test demonstrated that major websites from around the world are well-positioned for the transition to an IPv6-enabled Internet.

For more information on IPV6, please check out: the World IPv6 Day Newsletter and World IPv6 Day.

This white paper is for informational purposes only and is subject to change without notice. C2G makes no guarantees, either expressed or implied, concerning the accuracy, completeness or reliability of the information found in this document.