During the early 1990s, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) initiated work on developing a successor to the IPv4 protocol. The primary motivation behind this effort was the understanding that the 32-bit IPv4 address space would soon be exhausted, with new subnets and IP nodes being added to the Internet at a staggering rate. To address this growing need for an expanded IP address space, IPv6 was developed. The IPv6 designers also took advantage of this opportunity to modify and enhance various features of IPv4 in light of the accumulated operational experience with IPv4.
The Internet Protocol Version 6 is a network layer protocol that enables communication over the Internet. In December 1998, the IETF designed IPv6 to supersede IPv4 due to exponentially growing internet users globally.
The 128-bit IPv6 protocol is made up of eight numbered strings, each comprising four characters (alphanumeric), separated by a colon. This results in a massive number of distinct IP addresses: 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 to be exact. It also ensures that we won't run out of distinct IP addresses to allocate to new devices in the foreseeable future. A full IPv6 address looks like the following:
An IPv6 address consists of a network component and a node component. The network component occupies the first 64 bits of the address and is responsible for routing. The node component is the later 64-bits and identifies the interface's address.
The IPv6 protocol can better handle packets, enhance performance, and improve security. It allows internet service providers (ISPs) to minimize their routing tables' size by making them more structured.
Compared to IPv4, IPv6 has enhanced authentication and privacy measures. The IPv6 specification includes IPSec security to handle authentication and encryption between hosts. This built-in security framework ensures secure data transfer between hosts regardless of any applications on either host. In this way, IPv6 offers a comprehensive security framework for end-to-end data transfer at the host or the network level.
There are three requirements for using IPv6:
An IPv6-compliant operating system: IPv6 support must be built into your operating system's software. It should be compatible with all modern desktop operating systems - Windows Vista and newer Windows versions, and Mac OS X and Linux.
A router that supports IPv6: There are a large number of consumer routers out there that do not support IPv6. If you're intrigued, look at your router's specifications to find if it supports IPv6. If you're planning to purchase a new router, it's probably a good idea to buy one that supports IPv6 to future-proof yourself.
An ISP that supports IPv6: You must also ensure that your Internet service provider has IPv6 enabled. Despite having modern hardware and software on your end, you'll need an IPv6 connection from your ISP to use it. IPv6 is being rolled out gradually, and there's a high possibility your ISP hasn't enabled it yet.
Many enterprises are gradually implementing IPv6, usually by enabling IPv6 on their email and web servers. At the very least, this enables communication with the outside world using both protocols. Some companies are also deploying IPv6 in their internal networks, such as WANs and data centers. In these scenarios, enterprises implement dual-stack designs.
Transitioning from IPv4 to IPv6 offers several advantages for large enterprises. Apart from the substantial improvements in routing, inherent security, and auto-configuration functionality, enterprises are also interested in IPv6 networks because they offer lower deployment, maintenance, and operation costs, resulting in significant long-term cost savings for enterprises.