Tuesday, October 4, 2011

IPv6 - the future of ip addresses

What is IP:
Internet Protocol (IP) is the "language" and set of rules for computers to talk to each other over the internet. Anything which gets connected to internet will be assigned an internet protocol address / ip address. IP address is a number assigned to any device which connects and communicates over the internet. It is similar to our house address, used to figure out the physical location of the device on the internet. When you visit a website through your browser, the request is sent with your ip address so that the response will be sent back to the same ip address.

What is IPv4:
IPv4 or IP version 4, is the current addressing scheme developed in early 1980's.
It is based on 32 bit addresses and gives 232 or 4.3 billion unique combination of addresses.
All IPv4 addresses are made up of four parts separated by dots: xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx - where x can be a number between 0 and 255. (Eg:

What is the problem:
1) Address exhaustion: All the 4.3 billion unique addresses have almost been used, only a few thousands are left out.
The rapid growth of internet users and internet devices is one of the main reasons.
  • When you get a new internet connection to your home, you are getting an ip address.
  • When you host a website for your company, you are getting an ip address.
  • Company's like google and yahoo hosts 100's of servers to serve the customers quick with search requests, hence they occupy 100's of ip addresses.
2) Inefficient address use: Organizations acquired more ip addresses than required during 1980's.
3) Virtualization: The growth of hardware capabilities to host virtual machines (multiple machines / operating systems hosted on a single hardware server), requires an ip address for each virtual machine.

How to resolve this issue:
IPv6 or Internet Protocol version 6 is based on 128 bit addresses and gives 2^128 or 340 undecilion<<link>> (3.4 X 10^38) unique combinations. It contains 8 hexadecimal groups. Each group is separated by colon (:).
IPv6 format - xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx
Sample ipv6 address - 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334, it can be written as 2001:0db8:85a3::8a2e:0370:7334 (the consecutive zeros can be represented as ::)

The ipv6 networks has already started growing worldwide. New operating systems and latest internet devices have already implemented the ipv6 technology.
Hence, users will not be affected when the internet applications change to ipv6 technology. (Microsoft supported ipv6 from windows 2000). Large corporations have started providing their internet services through both ipv4 and ipv6.

How it affects the end user:
1) Old operating systems, old internet devices cannot support applications with only ipv6 addresses
2) Internet routers designed only to handle ipv4 addresses may become unusable when the ISP's change their services to ipv6 addresses


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