This Wednesday, June 6th is World IPv6 Day and we’re celebrating with news that Understanding IPv6, Third Edition (ISBN 9780735659148; 650 pages) has shipped to the printer. A big thanks and congratulations to author Joseph Davies and our production team, especially production manager Holly Bauer.
Why should you care about IPv6? We’ve included a sample below that explains the advantages of IPv6 over IPv4. We also recommend a very timely article — Internet powers flip the IPv6 switch (FAQ) – which provides some great background on World IPv6 day and the move to the new internet protocol:
“Internet Protocol version 6 has one big improvement over the prevailing IPv4 standard it’s designed to supplant: room to grow. However, moving to IPv6 isn’t simple, which is why many organizations on the Internet have banded together for Wednesday’s World IPv6 Launch event overseen by a standards and advocacy group called the Internet Society.”
Understanding IPv6 author Joseph Davies is presenting a free webinar — IPv6 Address Autoconfiguration and DHCPv6 – on Wednesday, June 6th. Go to oreillynet.com/…/2202 to get more information and register.
Here’s a preview from the book’s first chapter “Introduction to IPv6”.
The Case for IPv6 Deployment
Although the IPv6 protocol offers a host of technological advances and innovations, its use must still be justified from a business perspective and deployed by information technology (IT) staff in end-user organizations and ISPs. The deployment of native IPv6 support in the network infrastructure involves the planning and design of coexistence and migration strategies and the installation and maintenance of hardware and software. The resulting combination of IT staff, hardware and software resources, and time required for the transition makes the decision to deploy native IPv6 support a significant one, especially in light of other technology initiatives that might have higher visibility or better short-term benefits.
One must consider, however, that the Internet, once a pseudo-private network connecting educational institutions and United States government agencies, has become an indispensable worldwide communications medium that is an integral part of increased efficiency and productivity for commercial organizations and individuals, and it is now a major component of the world’s economic engine. Its growth must continue.
To continue the growth of the Internet and private intranets, IPv4 must eventually be replaced. The sooner IPv4 is replaced, the sooner the benefits of its replacement protocol are realized. The following sections present the key technological and business benefits in the case to deploy IPv6.
IPv6 Solves the Address Depletion Problem
With the explosion in the popularity of the Internet has come the introduction of commerce-related activities that can now be done over the Internet by an ever-increasing number of devices. With IPv4, the number of public addresses available to new devices is limited and shrinking. IPv4 cannot continue to scale and provide global connectivity to all of the planned Internet-capable devices to be produced and connected in the next 10 years. Although these devices can be assigned private addresses, address and port translation introduces complexity to the devices that need to perform server, listening, or peer functionality. IPv6 solves the IPv4 public address depletion problem by providing an address space to last well into the twenty-first century.
The business benefit of moving to IPv6 is that mobile cell phones, personal data assistants (PDAs), automobiles, appliances, and even people can be assigned multiple globally reachable addresses. The growth of the devices connected to the Internet and the software that these devices run can proceed without restraint and without the complexity and cost of having to operate behind NATs.
IPv6 Solves the Disjoint Address Space Problem
With IPv4, there are typically two different addressing schemes for the home and the enterprise network. In the home, an Internet gateway device (IGD) is assigned a single public IPv4 address and the IGD assigns private IPv4 addresses to the hosts on the home network. An enterprise might have multiple public IPv4 addresses or a public address range and either assign public, private, or both types of addresses within the enterprise’s intranet.
However, the public and private IPv4 address spaces are disjoint; that is, they do not provide symmetric reachability at the Network layer. Symmetric reachability exists when packets can be sent to and received from an arbitrary destination. With IPv4, there is no single addressing scheme that is applied to both networks that allows seamless connectivity. Connectivity between disjoint networks requires intermediate devices such as NATs or proxy servers. With IPv6, both homes and enterprises will be assigned global address prefixes and can seamlessly connect, subject to security restrictions such as firewall filtering and authenticated communication.
IPv6 Solves the International Address Allocation Problem
The Internet was principally a creation of educational institutions and government agencies of the United States of America. In the early days of the Internet, connected sites in the United States received IPv4 address prefixes without regard to summarizability or need. The historical result of this address allocation practice is that the United States has a disproportionate number of public IPv4 addresses.
With IPv6, public address prefixes are assigned to regional Internet registries, which, in turn, assign address prefixes to other ISPs and organizations based on justified need. This new address allocation practice ensures that address prefixes will be distributed globally based on regional connectivity needs rather than by historical origin. This makes the Internet more of a truly global resource rather than a United States—centric one. The business benefit to organizations across the globe is that they can rely on having available public IPv6 address space, without the current cost of obtaining IPv4 public address prefixes from their ISP or other source.
IPv6 Restores End-to-End Communication
With IPv4 NATs, there is a technical barrier for applications that rely on listening or peer-based connectivity because of the need for the communicating peers to discover and advertise their public IPv4 addresses and ports. The workarounds for the translation barrier might also require the deployment of echo or rendezvous servers on the Internet to provide public address and port configuration information.
With IPv6, NATs are no longer necessary to conserve public address space, and the problems associated with mapping addresses and ports disappear for developers of applications and gateways. More importantly, end-to-end communication is restored between hosts on the Internet by using addresses in packets that do not change in transit. This functional restoration has immense value when one considers the emergence of peer-to-peer telephony, video, and other real-time collaboration technologies for personal communications, and that the next wave of devices that are connected to the Internet include many types of peer-to-peer devices, such as mobile phones and gaming consoles.
By restoring global addressing and end-to-end connectivity, IPv6 has no barrier to new applications that are based on ad hoc connectivity and peer-based communication. Additionally, there is no need to deploy echo servers on the Internet. The business benefit for software developers is easier development of peer-based applications to share information, music, and media or to collaborate without having to work around the NAT translation barrier. An additional benefit to global addressing and end-to-end connectivity is that users can remotely access computers on their home networks rather than having to use intermediate hosts on the Internet.
IPv6 Uses Scoped Addresses and Address Selection
Unlike IPv4 addresses, IPv6 addresses have a scope, or a defined area of the network over which they are unique and relevant. For example, IPv6 has a global address that is equivalent to the IPv4 public address and a unique local address that is roughly equivalent to the IPv4 private address. Typical IPv4 routers do not distinguish a public address from a private address and will forward a privately addressed packet on the Internet. An IPv6 router, on the other hand, is aware of the scope of IPv6 addresses and will never forward a packet over an interface that does not have the correct scope.
There are different types of IPv6 addresses with different scopes. When multiple IPv6 addresses are returned in a DNS name query, the sending node must be able to distinguish their types and, when initiating communication, use a pair (source address and destination address) that is matched in scope and that is the most appropriate pair to use. For example, for a source and a destination that have been assigned both global (public) and link-local addresses, a sending IPv6 host would never use a global destination with a link-local source. IPv6 sending hosts include the address selection logic that is needed to decide which pair of addresses to use in communication. Moreover, the address selection rules are configurable. This allows you to configure multiple addressing infrastructures within an organization. Regardless of how many types of addressing infrastructures are in place, the sending host always chooses the “best” set of addresses. In comparison, IPv4 nodes have no awareness of address types and can send traffic to a public address from a private address.
The benefit of scoped addresses is that by using the set of addresses of the smallest scope, your traffic does not travel beyond the scope for the address, exposing your network traffic to fewer possible malicious hosts. The benefit of standardized and built-in address selection algorithms for ISVs is that they do not have to develop and test their own address selection schemes and can rely on the sorted list of addresses, resulting in lower software development costs.
IPv6 Has More Efficient Forwarding
IPv6 is a streamlined version of IPv4. Excluding prioritized delivery traffic, IPv6 has fewer fields to process and fewer decisions to make in forwarding an IPv6 packet. Unlike IPv4, the IPv6 header is a fixed size (40 bytes), which allows routers to process IPv6 packets faster. Additionally, the hierarchical and summarizable addressing structure of IPv6 global addresses means that there are fewer routes to analyze in the routing tables of organization and Internet backbone routers. The consequence is traffic that can be forwarded at higher data rates, resulting in higher performance for tomorrow’s high-bandwidth applications that use multiple data types.
IPv6 Has Support for Security and Mobility
IPv6 has been designed to support security (IPsec, with AH and ESP header support required) and mobility (optionally, Mobile IPv6). Although one could argue that these features are available for IPv4, they are available on IPv4 as extensions and therefore have architectural or connectivity limitations that might not have been present if they had been part of the original IPv4 design. It is always better to design features in rather than bolt them on. Designing IPv6 with security and mobility in mind has resulted in an implementation that is a defined standard, has fewer limitations, and is more robust and scalable to handle the current and future communication needs of the users of the Internet.
The business benefit of requiring support for IPsec and using a single, global address space is that IPv6 can protect packets from end to end across the entire IPv6 Internet. Unlike IPsec on the IPv4 Internet, which must be modified and has limited functionality when the endpoints are behind NATs, IPsec on the IPv6 Internet is fully functional between any two endpoints.