IPv6
IPv6
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Research & Development of the Internet Protocol
by Kaushik Das

Introduction


The Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) that was formerly called Xerox PARC is a Research and Development (R&D) company based in Palo Alto, California. The company began as an R&D division of the Xerox Corporation. The company was founded in the year 1970 and was incorporated as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Xerox Corporation on January 4, 2002.

The company made significant contribution in the development of Ethernet, laser-printing technology, the Graphical User Interface (GUI) for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), Object Oriented Programming (OOP) and Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) of transistors on semiconductor chips to cater to the modern day computing needs. The contemporary research domain comprises of embedded systems, ubiquitous computing, IPv6, breakthrough biomedical technologies and intelligent information systems.
  IPv6

Vinton Cerf

Vinton Gray Cerf is frequently acknowledged as one of the inventors of the modern day Internet as is commonly referred to as the 'father of the Internet'. Cerf is the co-designer of the TCP/IP protocol suite and the architecture of the Internet. Throughout his long and distinguished career, he has been associated with numerous institutions of repute such as the IBM, DARPA, UCLA, CNRI, Stanford University, MCI and Google. He holds numerous honorary degrees and awards such as the Turing Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Technology. Since September 2005, he is working with Google as its Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist. He is the Chairman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and is also working with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on extending the Internet into the outer space for inter-planet communications thereby giving rise to the Interplanetary Network.

The TCP/IP protocol suite developed by Vinton G. Cerf and Robert E. Kahn was named after two of the most important protocols in it: the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP) that were the fist two protocols defined to facilitate the Local Area Networks (LANs) and the Internet. In this way, both the researchers did the groundwork that acted as a foundation stone for the development of the future communications protocols such as the IPv4 and the IPv6.

IETF

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) undertakes the development and promotion of the various Internet standards and closely cooperates with its sister organizations such as the W3C and the ISO/IEC that deal in particular with the standards of the TCP/IP and the Internet Protocol suite. IETF is an open standards organization with no formal membership requirements. Most of the participants are made up of volunteers although the respective sponsors or employers fund their work at the organization.

Research of IPv4 & IPv6

The Internet Protocol version 4 or IPv4 is the most widely used network layer protocol on the Internet. IPv4 offered 32-bit (4 byte) address space of 232 that was equivalent to about 4,294,967,296 unique addresses on the network. The IPv4 protocol is described in IETF RFC 791 (September 1981). Internet Protocol version 6 or IPv6 is the successor to the IPv4. It offers an address space of 2128 or approximately 5x1028 unique addresses to be used over the Internet. The IPv6 protocol is described in the IETF RFC 2460 (1998).
 
IPv6

The Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA) of the US government took the initiative and started developing a network called the ARPANET. From 1972, ARPA dealt with research projects of military interest and was renamed DARPA. The Network Control Protocol (a predecessor to the TCP/IP) gave top priority to file transfer, remote login and email operations. In the year 1973, a project was started to develop the new lower layer protocols since the existing layers proved functionally inadequate. In 1974, Cerf and Kahn specified the following goals for lower layer protocols:

  • 1.Independence from network processes and network architecture of the host
  • 2.Universal connectivity throughout the network
  • 3.Standardized application protocols
  • 4.End-to-end acknowledgements

    Other important features of IPv6:

    The above goals were incorporated in the TCP/IPv4 protocol that was standardized in ARPANET's RFC in the year 1981. In the later years, IPv4 turned out to be the most widely deployed network layer protocol and the only standard internetwork-layer protocol used on the Internet. IPv4 was a data oriented protocol used over packet switched networks. It neither guarantees the delivery nor the correctness of the data delivered. The issues of packet duplication or out-of-order delivery are addressed by upper layer protocols such as TCP.

    Development of the IPv6 was primarily driven by the limited address space offered by IPv4. With an increasing number of networked devices, there was a very real threat of address space exhaustion that was successfully averted by the much larger address space offered by the IPv6. After becoming aware of the impending address space crunch in the year 1992, the IETF started an IPng (IP next generation) effort to address the issue on a priority basis. The RFC 1550 onwards outlined the ensuing discussions. Around 1995, The IP version 6 or IPv6 was chosen as the final IPng proposal. The IPv6 base specifications were specified in RFC 2460.

    The resulting protocol offered various key features such as a significantly larger address space. It also offered a simplified header structure. IPv6 is fully interoperable and offers a smooth transition from the existing IPv4 protocol. It contained provision for flexible protocol extensions and offered the much-needed cure for the ever-growing routing table in IPv4 that had become a headache for the Internet Service Providers (ISPs). It further incorporated recent technologies such as Autoconfiguration, improved security, Multicasting, and better provisions for ad-hoc networking that is required by the different wireless devices.
  •