Thursday, June 21, 2012

All Hail IPv6 as King, IPv4 is dead...

For decades IPv4 was king because it was the dominate networking protocol for Internet and corporate Intranet communications.  Although its rein has come to an end as the pool of publicly available IPv4 addresses (the numeric addresses assigned to every device on the Internet) was officially depleted as of February, 2011.

Its been known for a long time that the publicly available IPv4 address space would be completely depleted so in 1998 they started drafting a next-generation networking technology known as IPv6 to replace it.

For years several ISPs and Internet companies have been testing and deploying their networks to be able to carry both IPv6 and IPv4 traffic. They have also offer "tunneling services" that allow IPv6 customers to access IPv4 sites. 

June 6, 2012 was designated as "World Launch Day" for IPv6.  Several major ISPs and Internet companies permanently enabled IPv6 on their public Internet sites.

The IPv4 and IPv6 are majorly different network protocol, but have been designed to interoperate with each other so that they can co-exist on the same network.  

One of the first fundamental differences between the two protocols is the size of the address space (e.g. the amount of device that are supported).  The IPv4 protocol supports a maximum number of over 4 billion (4,294,967,296) public IP addresses.   The  IPv6 protocol supports a maximum number of over 340 undecillion (340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456) unique addresses. 

The following Microsoft operating systems include full support for IPv6: Windows Vista, 7, 8 and Windows Server 2008 and above.
Note: Windows XP does have support for IPv6 but its not native to the OS.
Brief Note: IPv6 to IPv4 Tunneling
For older IPv4 networks that don't currently support IPv6, there are a few different protocol transition technologies.  For example, there is "6to4 Tunneling" which is able to encapsulate IPv6 packets within IPv4.  Basically what this technology does is take one type of network data (e.g. IPv6) and translates it into another type (e.g. IPv4) then broadcasts it over the network.

IPv6 Checklist
Below is a checklist of items that you have to have in order to use IPv6 on your computer and network.
  • An operating system and applications can that supports IPv6 (Note: applications have to be specifically updated to support the IPv6 protocol)
    • The most current versions of Windows (Vista and above), Linux or Mac OS X.
  • A router appliance (commercial or consumer) that supports IPv6.
    • Most modern routers  support IPv6, older models may require firmware update if available (check hardware manufacture's web site for more information).
  • An ISP with IPv6 protocol and DNS support.
    • IPv6 readiness will vary between companies.  Contact your ISP to find out the type of IPv6 support they offer.
    • If you're ISP doesn't support IPv6 you can use an IPv6 Tunnel Broker like Hurricane Electric to allow your computer to access the IPv6 Internet.
Testing Your IPv6 Readiness
Want to check out your networks IPv6 readiness?  Run the following test ( from your browser and it will tell you whether its IPv6 network is ready or not. If you  already have an IPv6 network running, this site offers a good way to test if you have any problems or other issues.

Other was to test if IPv6 is working properly on your network, run the following two search queries on Google and they will show you your publicly available IPv4 and IPv6 address.
Learning More
Want to learn more about IPv6, read the following article, "Introduction to IPv6".  Also check out a site called Hurricane Electric (H.E.).  H.E. also offers an unofficial IPv6 certification.

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