IPv6 has now been confirmed and it will be used by manufacturers moving forwards however, because IPv6 is so similar to IPv4, there is some confusion as to what exactly the move means. Below are ten tips to better understand how IPv6 works.
1. IPv4 will still be used locally for the near future
The main reason systems are switching to IPv6 is the number of devices that can be addressed over the whole Internet. IPv4 can only have 4,294,967,296 addresses, but IPv6’s hexadecimal naming convention can address approximately 34,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 devices.
Since it’s highly unlikely that any LAN will need more than four million addresses, they will continue to offer IPv4 support for connecting between local devices, even though the IP address used to connect to the Internet will be IPv6. New devices will have IPv6 enabled by default, but will still support IPv4 for connecting to legacy networks.
2. Leading zeros are suppressed in addresses
Fortunately for those configuring an IPv6 connection, zeros at the start of each segment can be left out. For example, under IPv4, the loopback address is 127.0.0.1. The full IPv6 loopback address is 0000:0000:0000:0000:0000:0000:0000:0001, but because zeros are suppressed, this address is listed as ::1.
3. Support has been a long, slow process
The first IPv6 code entered the Linux kernel back in 1996, while the standard was enabled by default in Windows starting with Vista. On the hardware front, almost all devices built in the last five years or so has IPv6 support built in. On June 6, 2012, IPv6 had a worldwide “launch” with several manufacturers and providers switching permanently to the standard: Companies like Google and Cisco now use IPv6 by default in all their services and products.
That doesn’t mean that systems are 100% compatible. One of the holdovers from MS-DOS is the drive naming convention which uses colons, such as C:. To get around this, Windows uses dashes when storing IPv6 addresses, changing them to colons when sending information through the network.
4. A single IPv6 address has all the information needed identify a device
The IPv6 address has three parts: The first 48 bits are the network prefix, followed by 16 bits for the subnet ID, and the final 64 bits for the device ID. Some of the device ID bits can also be used for additional subnet information.
5. IPv6 data can travel over IPv4 networks
The main reason that IPv6 adoption has been slow was its complete separation from IPv4, but new systems like 6to4 and Teredo can put an IPv6 packet inside an IPv4 packet, letting the data travel across both networks. Both the sender and the receiver have to be able to handle IPv6 packets, but everything in between can use IPv4.