As we all know, the usage of the Internet has been growing by leaps and bounds especially over the past few years. Information transfer is all important now, with more and more people hopping onboard the World Wide Web and an enormous number of gadgets also becoming Internet enabled.
The Internet Protocol (IP) is the method (in technology, we call it “protocol”) by which data is transmitted from one computer to another on the Internet. So every computer has a unique address (in computer world, this is called the IP address) and data is sent in packets of information from the sender’s IP address to the receiver’s, traversing many other points along the way.
The IPv6 Addressing System
Computers are composed of digital electronics which follow the binary system of ‘0’ and ‘1’. Each 0 or 1 in the binary system is termed a binary digit or ‘bit.’ Technically speaking, the current version of the Internet (known as version 4 or IPv4) uses a 32-bit IP addressing system. If we compare this with our Postal system as an analogy, this is similar to the postman identifying a correct home address in a community of 4,294,967,296 houses, and then subsequently delivering a letter to that particular address.
Fortunately enough, the current addressing scheme for IPv4 accurately delivers information to these houses. Now imagine that the community has increased many fold and there are no available addresses (i.e. number) to identify houses in this larger community. This is similar to what is happening with the explosive growth of the Internet, this system imposes a limitation on the number of possible IP addresses and could result in stalling the growth of the Internet in all its aspects. The new addressing system IPv6 is based on a 128-bit which vastly enhances the number of addresses. Experts have made it clear that a gradual transition to the new protocol is inevitable. In fact, countries like China and Japan have made rapid progress in launching IPv6.
TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol) is a suite of protocols. The suite consists of a layered set of protocols, with each layer building upon the layer below it, for a new functionality. At its lowest level, the protocol relates to the sending and receiving of raw data, while at the top, the protocols are concerned with file transfers or email delivery. Routing and reliability are taken care of by the layers in-between. The layered system makes it possible to add on new protocols for every new network application or hardware that needs to be introduced.
The Ethernet as it was conceived of initially, provided for communication over a single cable shared by all devices on the network. Any device attached to this cable could communicate with any other attached device, and this system makes it possible to easily accommodate new devices to expand the network. The Ethernet is today the most commonly used type of network, and the Ethernet protocol is designed for carrying blocks of data called frames.
Network Address Translation (NAT)
NAT has been one of the solutions used to circumvent the issue of depleted addresses. Rather than assign a worldwide unique address to every user’s machine, NAT involves the assigning of private addresses, so that a number of computers/servers are covered under a single globally unique address.
Advantages of Using IPv6 over IPv4
The following advantages are immediately obvious in the new scheme of things:
- Larger address space
- Support for mobile devices
- Simplified address auto-configuration
- Improved address management
- Built-in security with end-to end IP Sec
- Enables more levels of hierarchy for route aggregation (Route aggregation on the Internet is similar to the ZIP code system used by the postal department. For e.g., mail addressed with ZIP codes 9xxxx are directed to the West coast. Regional and local post offices on the West coast then sort the mail by looking further into the ZIP code. For example, 98xxx letters are sent to Washington while 97xxx letters are sent to Oregon.)
- Makes it possible to upgrade functionality as needed, e.g., multicasting, QoS and mobility features. Quality of Service (QoS) is a technology that helps ease the congestion in packet-switched networks. QoS provides for network traffic to be divided into different classes during times of congestion, and helps in prioritizing information transfer.
- On the IPv6 platform, billions of new devices such as cell phones, PDA’s, appliances and even cars can be IPv6 enabled;
- The Internet can extend its reach to billions of new users in densely populated regions of the world;
- The protocol makes it possible for “always on” access technologies like xDSL, Cable or Ethernet connectivity.
With IPv6, mobile access of the Internet becomes simplified to a great extent, as it incorporates a specific protocol, called Mobile IP to support mobility. In an IPv6 environment, there is support for roaming between different networks.
In addition to supporting mobile devices, security is a matter of increasing concern. IPv6 incorporates Internet Protocol security (IPsec), which provides for authentication, encryption, and compression of IP traffic. IPSec is a set of open standards meant for the protection of data communicated over Internet Protocol (IP) networks. It achieves this protection through the use of cryptographic security services. IPsec supports network-level peer authentication, data origin authentication, data integrity, and data confidentiality (encryption), and replay protection. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) IPsec Working Group has developed the standards for IPSEc.
A large part of the TCP/IP communications involves the sending of messages from one source device to one recipient device, and this is referred to as unicast communication. It is also possible to send a message from one device to a set of recipients, otherwise known as multicasting. Multicasting support is a standard feature of the IPv6 protocol, making the process of communication faster, easier and more reliable.
The Requests for Comments (RFCs) consist of a series of notes that relate exclusively to the Internet. RFCs discuss many aspects of computer communication, focusing on networking protocols, procedures, programs, and concepts. RFC 2460 is the document that covers the Internet Protocol, Version 6 (IPv6) Specification in detail.