Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is the latest revision of the Internet Protocol (IP) and the first version of the protocol to be widely deployed. IPv6 was developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to deal with the long-anticipated problem of IPv4 address exhaustion.
“What is the advantage of IPv6? I think using IPv4 is enough for me. As long as I can connect to the internet.”
Yes, you still can connect to the internet using IPv4. But, if you know almost 3/4 from all people in the world is using internet right now. Let’s say human population in the world right now is around 7 billion. So if we calculate it, there’s around 5.25 billion people using internet! Can you imagine that?!
The limit address of IPv4 is 4294967296 (232) addresses. Maybe it’s still have enough IP address, if every people in this world only have one PC/Laptop to connect to the internet. And when we talk about a company, we don’t talk about one PC or one Laptop. They use a hundred of PC to work everyday.
If we talk about features, IPv6 offers the following features:
- Larger Address Space:
In contrast to IPv4, IPv6 uses 4 times more bits to address a device on the Internet. This much of extra bits can provide approximately 3.4×1038 different combinations of addresses. This address can accumulate the aggressive requirement of address allotment for almost everything in this world. According to an estimate, 1564 addresses can be allocated to every square meter of this earth.
- Simplified Header:
IPv6’s header has been simplified by moving all unnecessary information and options (which are present in IPv4 header) to the end of the IPv6 header. IPv6 header is only twice as bigger than IPv4 providing the fact the IPv6 address is four times longer.
- End-to-end Connectivity:
Every system now has unique IP address and can traverse through the internet without using NAT or other translating components. After IPv6 is fully implemented, every host can directly reach other host on the Internet, with some limitations involved like Firewall, Organization’s policies, etc.
IPv6 supports both stateful and stateless auto configuration mode of its host devices. This way absence of a DHCP server does not put halt on inter segment communication.
- Faster Forwarding/Routing:
Simplified header puts all unnecessary information at the end of the header. All information in first part of the header are adequate for a Router to take routing decision thus making routing decision as quickly as looking at the mandatory header.
Initially it was decided for IPv6 to must have IPSec security, making it more secure than IPv4. This feature has now been made optional.
- No Broadcast:
Though Ethernet/Token Ring are considered as broadcast network because they support Broadcasting, IPv6 does not have any Broadcast support anymore left with it. It uses multicast to communicate with multiple hosts.
- Anycast Support:
This is another characteristic of IPv6. IPv6 has introduced Anycast mode of packet routing. In this mode, multiple interfaces over the Internet are assigned same Anycast IP address. Routers, while routing, sends the packet to the nearest destination.
IPv6 was designed keeping mobility feature in mind. This feature enables hosts (such as mobile phone) to roam around in different geographical area and remain connected with same IP address. IPv6 mobility feature takes advantage of auto IP configuration and Extension headers.
- Enhanced Priority support:
Where IPv4 used 6 bits DSCP (Differential Service Code Point) and 2 bits ECN (Explicit Congestion Notification) to provide Quality of Service but it could only be used if the end-to-end devices support it, that is, the source and destination device and underlying network must support it.
In IPv6, Traffic class and Flow label are used to tell underlying routers how to efficiently process the packet and route it.
- Smooth Transition:
Large IP address scheme in IPv6 enables to allocate devices with globally unique IP addresses. This assures that mechanism to save IP addresses such as NAT is not required. So devices can send/receive data between each other, for example VoIP and/or any streaming media can be used much efficiently.
Other fact is, the header is less loaded so routers can make forwarding decision and forward them as quickly as they arrive.
One of the major advantage of IPv6 header is that it is extensible to add more information in the option part. IPv4 provides only 40-bytes for options whereas options in IPv6 can be as much as the size of IPv6 packet itself.
So far, IPv4 has proven itself as a robust routable addressing protocol and has served human being for decades on its best-effort-delivery mechanism. It was designed in early 80’s and did not get any major change afterward. At the time of its birth, Internet was limited only to a few Universities for their research and to Department of Defense. IPv4 is 32 bits long which offers around 4,294,967,296 (232) addresses. This address space was considered more than enough that time. Soon or later we will running out of IP addresses. That’s why we must switch from IPv4 to IPv6.