IPv4 vs. IPv6

IPv4 vs. IPv6

Many of us in the networking space have heard of IPv6. We might have even investigated the next generation of the Internet Protocol. It’s used to assign addresses to devices that connect to the Internet. It also increases unique addresses available.

How does IPv6 compares to the previous generation, IPv4?

What is IPv4?

IPv4 has been the mainstream format for representing unique identifiers for Internet devices. It uses a 4 octet 32-bit address, with a value between 0-255 for each octet (e.g. It’s designed to provide a unique address to each device on the Internet.

It became clear as the Web grew that there wouldn’t be enough addresses. Organizations adopted DHCP early. That’s a protocol to dynamically assign temporary IP addresses within a local area network.

These addresses are unique only within the local network, not Internet-wide. This allows for a compensatory greater pool.

What is IPv6?

IPv6 maintains the same principle of assigning unique IP addresses. Yet, it expands the number of addresses available by providing a 128-bit address (e.g. FE80:0000:0000:0000:0202:B3FF:FE1E:8329). This creates an unlimited pool. It also frees up the need for auxiliary, compensatory technologies and strategies.

Each device can have an identifying address, whether on a local network or not. It opens the use-cases for the upcoming Internet of Things, in which appliances, home systems and more will connect to the Internet.

Other Features of IPv6

IPv6 also offers a host of other features:

  • It allows networks to automatically configure local IP address. It’s done easily with a protocol called SLAAC.
  • It provides an evolved version of ICMP. This allows easier error handling and discovery within the network.
  • The IP Header Packet contains specific information about the data sent/received. Routers can parse what to do with the data exchanged.
  • It enforces security through IPSec, rather than making it optional.
  • Expanded multicast identifies specific groups for sending and receiving information. This includes hosts, routers, or specific servers.

Pace of Implementation

The world is shifting to IPv6, but it takes a while. The specification, first developed in 1998, has still to receive widespread adoption. Top-tier ISPs and networking companies push it.

IPv4 addresses have maxed out after almost two decades. Benefits of IPv6 are clear. Current equipment now works with both standards ensures the transition, albeit slow, is inevitable.