What is IPv6?
Every Internet-capable computer or device needs a numeric IP (Internet Protocol) address to be able to connect to the global Internet. Most computers and devices connect using the IPv4 (Internet Protocol Version 4) address standard, which allows for over four billion addresses.
The number of Internet-enabled devices however is growing so quickly that soon there won’t be enough IPv4 addresses to go around. Therefore, IPv6 was created, enabling 340 billion billion billion billion addresses.
IPv6 is the platform for future innovation:
The boundless IPv6 address space presents unparalleled opportunity for innovation. It encourages the deployment of hitherto undreamt-of applications and services. The ‘Internet of Things’ will unshackle itself from the annals of science fiction and the networked interconnection of everyday objects will become a reality. The future is IPv6.
In Asia, the widespread use of IPv6 is a central plank of China’s Next Generation Internet project. In the largest showcase of IPv6 potential to-date the entire network operations of the Beijing Olympics were conducted using IPv6 – security cameras, taxis and events cameras were all linked with IPv6; events were streamed live from an IPv6-enabled website, and IPv6-networked cars were able to monitor traffic conditions in real-time.
The United States Department of Defence is another leading the charge on IPv6 deployment. It has secured a sizeable /13 allocation of IPv6 addresses, and is using these in its Defense Research and Engineering Network (DREN). The supercomputers at DREN make use of IPv6 to connect staff and researchers in 26 US states, and the Department’s nationwide backbone has been dual-stacked – able to handle both IPv4 and IPv6 traffic – since 2003.
But IPv6 is not only for enterprises; it’s a technology that pierces deep into the realm of the everyman. It is now finding its way into consumer grade equipment such as home routers and wireless access points. Increasing numbers of CPE manufacturers, including those in New Zealand, are starting to build IPv6 into their product suites as a matter of course and networking equipment that is optimised to carry IPv6 traffic is already on the shelves; you could be using such equipment now, without knowing.
Telephone manufacturers are beginning to include IPv6 support into mobile devices. US carrier Verizon recently announced that mobiles connecting to its fourth-generation, or LTE, network must support IPv6 and, as other carriers upgrade their networks, mobile IPv6 will become a major growth area.
In New Zealand, the research and education sector is at the forefront of IPv6 implementation. The KAREN research network operated by REANNZ (the Research and Education Advanced Network of New Zealand) has had IPv6 throughout its network infrastructure since it was built in 2007. Networks at Massey and Auckland universities are also well-advanced, setting a platform for research innovation.
Expect to see more New Zealand Government departments IPv6-enable their public-facing websites, providing access to New Zealand citizens no matter where they are in the world.
In the near future most electronic devices will be joined to the Internet, connecting homes, utilities, businesses and healthcare providers. The world is awash with silicon and the continued growth of the Internet hinges on the vast addressing potential of IPv6. There is no question that future services and applications will run over IPv6 – consider the drive towards smart buildings, smart-grids, metering systems and embedded sensor networks that monitor information and energy flows.
With billions of new devices and users forecast to come online the Internet is on the cusp of a sweeping transformation. IPv6 is the oil that will fuel this exciting new phase of growth, so get ready now for the wave of change it will bring.
Technical benefits of IPv6:
Larger address space
IPv6 allows for practically unlimited IP addresses. IPv4’s 4×10^9 (4 billion) addresses cannot provide every living person with an address, let alone support the growing market of connectivity devices, whereas IPv6 supports 3 x10^38 addresses.
Header format simplification
The IPv6 header is a standardised format, simplified by allowing headers to be chained together. There are only six fields, the two 128 bit addresses for source and destination, and no options. It is much more straightforward than the IPv4 format; it produces simple headers when required, but also allows for more complicated applications to add intricacy.