Internet Protocol (IP) addresses have been transitioning to a new-and-improved version steadily and quietly without notice from most end users. Networks have been migrating their IP address technology -- those unique “numbers” assigned to every computer and device connected to the internet -- away from the legacy IPv4 version to IPv6.
Worldwide, according to Google statistics, 30.6 percent of traffic was utilizing IPv6 as of March 3, 2021, including 44.4 percent of traffic in the United States. Those that are not already working on migration, risk missing out as IPv4 will one day be phased out.
“IPv6 adoption is like the proverb about planting a tree,” said Ben Bittfield, IPv6 network architect for Sprint. “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”
IPv6 Migration Picking Up Its Pace
IPv6 has been around for just over 20 years, first developed in 1999 to replace the rapidly depleting address combinations available under IPv4, with the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) handing out its last available IPv4 address in 2015.
ARIN says: “IPv6 provides a much larger address pool so that many more devices can be connected to the Internet. It also improves addressing and routing of network traffic. Because the free pool of IPv4 addresses has been depleted, customers will want to request IPv6 address space for new networks, and eventually transition their networks from IPv4 to IPv6.”
By next year more than one-third of the world and one-half of the United States will be IPv6 functional. Some countries around the world already have a 50 percent-plus adoption rate with India (57.9 percent), Belgium (54.8 percent), Germany (51.8 percent), and Malaysia (51.2 percent) leading the way.
“The number of IPv6-only Internet users has never been higher, and without IPv6, you run the risk of not being visible to them, or the entire Internet,” said ARIN.
Differences Between IPv4 and IPv6
IPv4, which uses 32-bit addresses, assigns each connected device a number (for example 184.108.40.206), and is based on 4.3 billion unique combinations. The explosion of connected devices has exhausted the IPv4 address pool.
IPv6 uses hexadecimal notation (an address may appear as 2001:0DB8:0234:AB00:0123:ABCD:34EF:0001) which allows for 340 undecillion combinations.
If these internet protocol versions were heavyweight boxers, IPv4 would be the sentimental favorite, but the underdog in the ring, as IPv6 has many advantages over its older sibling.
The tale of the tape looks like:
Category IPv4 IPv6
Address Length: 32-bit 128-bit
Address Representation Decimal Hexadecimal
Address Combinations: 4.29×109 3.4×1038
Address Configuration Manual & DHCP Auto &
End to End Connection Integrity Unachievable Achievable
Security Feature Application dependent IPSEC built-in
Packet Flow Identification Not available Available
Encryption and Authentication Not provided Provided
In the end it is no contest as IPv6 is superior to IPv4, proving an improvement in:
- end-user experience online
- traffic congestion
- application specificity
Google, Facebook Lead the IPv6 Way
Some of the Internet giants are leading the way on IPv6 migration with the following companies achieving IPv6 capability:
Based on the latest numbers, about 29 percent of Alexa’s Top 500 servers now support IPv6.
Government Following Businesses Lead on IPv6
Before the end of fiscal 2021, U.S. federal agencies will need to have a plan in place to hit 80 percent IPv6-only systems by 2025.
“Mobile networks, data centers and leading-edge enterprise networks, for example, have been evolving to IPv6-only networks,” said Suzette Kent, Federal Chief Information Officer. “It is essential for the federal government to expand and enhance its strategic commitment to the transition to IPv6 in order to keep pace with and capitalize on industry trends.”
IPv6 Transition Gets Easier
Bittfield says that companies can not afford not to shift IPv6 with the coming age of IoT things and 5G technology: “Given the massive volume of devices promised by IoT and the rise of 5G with the associated Push to the network edge, it is essential to use IPv6 and not be constrained by IPv4 address limitations. IPv4 simply cannot support the needs of a mobile provider to scale a network architecture to support 5G and IoT.”
Kevin Pack, senior engineer, customer engineering, Global IP Network, NTT, found migrating to IPv6 easier than some might think. “From my perspective, deploying IPv6 is easy and simple,” Pack wrote in a ARIN case study.
Dual Stack an Option During IPv6 Migration
For Houston area networks looking to migrate to IPv6, PS Lightwave has been implementing the new technology for several years. PS Lightwave has been providing IPv4 and IPv6 to its customers as dual stack – which means they can run IPv4 alongside IPv6, and devices can use either IP.
The benefit of IPv6, PS Lightwave engineers point out, is that unlike IPv4 where each home usually has just one IP address via a router for all devices, with IPv6 you can have an assigned individual IP address for each unique device.
This will make it easier to remotely control over the Internet IoT items such as thermostats, lighting systems, security cameras and many other devices. The connections to these devices will be more efficient, streamlined, and secure.
PS LIGHTWAVE provides high-speed, fiber Internet for public and private commercial entities in the Greater Houston and surrounding areas.
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