Applied Science / Technology Essay

 IPV4 AND IPV6: WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?

Currently, the global Internet still mainly uses the IPv4 protocol, or Internet Protocol 4. However, a significant problem will arise in the years to come: all IPv4 addresses will soon be allocated. A new protocol, called IPv6, has started to be deployed to address this problem. In addition to providing an infinite number of additional IP addresses, this technology has some differences and advantages over its ancestor, IPv4.

Here we will discuss everything you need to know about IPv4 and IPv6.

What is an IP address?

Why does the global Internet need to migrate to Internet Protocol 6?

What are its advantages, but also its disadvantages?

Why is it an obligation to switch from IPv4 to IPV6?

The switch from Internet Protocol 4 to Internet Protocol 6 is not a fad or a choice of the big manufacturers in the Internet sector. On the contrary, it is an obligation, dictated by the limitations in terms of the number of IP addresses available with the technology in its version 4. First, what is the famous IP address that does so much talk about it?

What are the differences between IPv4 and IPv6?

Let’s find out together what the difference between IPv4 and IPv6 is!

What is an IP address, or Internet Protocol address?

The IP address is a number, assigned to all network interfaces of all computer hardware. This, therefore, covers routers, smartphones, internet boxes, computers, connected objects, etc., which are connected to the Internet. It is, therefore, a number, which is unique, and which represents the identification number of the computer equipment connected to a computer network using the Internet Protocol.

To simplify, it can be compared to a phone number. We then understand why it must be unique. If two people had the same phone number, the connection would indeed be impossible. The same principle applies to IP addresses.

On the Internet, information circulates in the form of packets. The IP address is used to route data packets over the Internet. Each transmitted packet thus contains the IP address of the sender, but also of the recipient. IPv4 addresses take the following form: xxx.x.xx.xx, where each x corresponds to a number between 0 and 9.

Concretely, IP addresses are used for each use of the Internet. When a user views a website, for example, the computer communicates with the server hosting the site, in the form of packets addressed through IP addresses.

There is currently a major problem, which is due to the way in which IPv4 addresses are defined. With IPv4, IP addresses have 32 bits of address space. This means that in total, with IPv4, it is possible to obtain 2 ^ 32 IP addresses. This corresponds to approximately 4.3 billion addresses. Today, the number of addresses is decreasing, and a solution must be found before no longer have any available. One of the solutions is then the switch to IPv6.

What is IPv4, and why should we change it soon?

Historically, Internet Protocol version 4 was the first version to be truly deployed on a large scale. IP addresses, in this version of the protocol, are 32-bit encoded. If this figure seemed unattainable when this standard was defined in 1981, the situation has changed a lot today. Back then, it was hard to imagine that less than 40 years later, people in developed countries would each have several devices intended to connect to the Internet.

The transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is currently underway.

With the imminent arrival of 5G packages, everything connected and the Internet of Things, requests for IP addresses will also explode again. Moreover, of the more than 4 billion IP addresses available, not all of them are usable, since some cannot be used due to constraints linked to the sub networking of the Internet.

In the early days of the global Internet, saving IP addresses were not taken into account, as some companies were assigned batches of 16 million addresses. This has contributed, at its scale, to the shortage of IPv4 addresses.

Why did you choose an initially limited standard?

When the IPv4 standard was created in 1981, it was unimaginable that the more than 4 billion unique IP addresses could ever be used. Today, in addition to computers, smartphones are connected to the Internet, but also connected objects, or even smart TVs. A shortage is therefore already announced.

What solutions have been put in place to avoid the shortage of IPv4 addresses?

To overcome this shortage, solutions had to be deployed. The RIRs, for Regional Internet Registries, have, for example, put in place more stringent assignment policies, which take real needs into account.

NAT, for Network Address Translation, is another technology that has been particularly developed to alleviate the problems of shortage of IPv4 addresses. It is a technique of translating private IP addresses, not directly accessing the Internet, into a single public IP address, which can communicate with the global Internet. Concretely, this allows the computers of an intranet network not to have a public IPv4 address, and therefore to save a significant number of them.

Another solution, based on volunteering, was to recover the blocks allocated too generously in the early days of the Internet. Other very technical solutions have been deployed, but some still fear the establishment of a black market, between customers, for the resale of IP addresses or blocks of IP addresses. To avoid this, a new protocol, IPv6, must make its appearance.

What are the differences between IPv6 and IPv4?

The first difference between the two Internet Protocol standards is, of course, the size of the address space. The latter is much wider with IPv6, which makes it possible to solve the problem of shortage of IPv4 addresses. This characteristic of IPv6 is not its only advantage compared to the previous standard, which turns out to be relatively old.

IPv4 was created in 1981. The IPv4 address is 4 bytes, in decimal format, separated by a period. This results in an address that is 32 bits in size, corresponding to 4.3 billion unique IP addresses.

IPv6 was created in 1990. It has 16 bytes, in hexadecimal format, which are separated by a colon. This, therefore, gives an address size of 128 bits, corresponding to 340 sextillion unique addresses. This corresponds to 36 zeros behind the number 340.

There are several notable differences between the IPv4 and IPv6 standards.

IPv6 addresses provide different types of benefits:

A more secure standard:

Remember that IPv4 is a very old standard. At that time, the security aspects were not as important, since the threats were much more moderate. Security mechanisms, such as IPSec, have thus been added to the standard. With IPv4, IPSec is therefore optional. This mechanism is used to protect the packets, using different methods such as encryption, data integrity or peer authentication. In the IPv6 standard, IPSec has been directly implemented. This means that it is not necessary to configure it for it to work.

Auto-configuration of IPv6 addresses.

Another advantage of this new protocol is called stateless auto-configuration of IPv6 addresses. This helps to avoid configuration issues that could arise when deploying IPv4 networks. Now each device is able to determine its own address, without the administrator having to configure it manually. If this advantage remains rather technical, it should be remembered that network configuration is simpler with IPv6 than with IPv4.

Simplified headers

In addition, IPv6 headers have been simplified. Due to multicasting, which is an optional feature in IPv4, it is possible to transmit a packet to several recipients at once. This functionality is also included as standard in IPv6.

We can therefore say that if most of the advantages of IPv6 remain technical and aimed at professionals in the network sector, the arrival of this new standard should first solve the problem of the shortage of IPv4 addresses. For consumers who wish to use a VPN, it will be necessary to select one that is compatible with IPv6.

The main disadvantage of IPv6

The only real disadvantage of IPv6 is that it is not compatible with IPv4. This poses a real challenge since the global Internet cannot afford to be split in two while the transition takes place.

Types of IPv6 addresses

Internet Protocol v6 provides for the existence of three different types of IP addresses. Let's see what they are.

IPv6 unicast

It is an IP address that identifies a single network interface and therefore a single recipient. A data packet sent with a unicast IPv6 address can only be destined for one computer.

IPv6 multicast

It is an IP address that identifies a set of network interfaces and therefore a set of recipients. A data packet sent with an IPv6 multicast address can be destined for multiple computers simultaneously without the need to duplicate and address the information individually.

IPv6 anycast

An IPv6 anycast address is an address that can correspond to a set of network interfaces. A data packet sent with an IPv6 anycast address can be sent to one or more recipients, but only one host is chosen to receive the data IPV4 AND IPV6: WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?, usually the closest in terms of routing distance.

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