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Features of IPv6 Internet Protocol

IPv6 is the new and improved internet protocol version. Learn more about the features it offers and the upsides it has over the outdated IPv4.

10 Sep, 21 by Ayden I 6 min Read

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Similar to how most drivers do not bother to look under the hood of their cars, most internet users do not wish to learn about the underlying technologies that allow their computers and even the entire internet to function as it does today. For those who are more technically inclined, however, we have created this blog that explains in detail the features of the new IPv6 protocol.

 

IPv6 is a type of Internet Protocol. It is the next generation of Internet Protocol (IP). It has primarily been developed to solve the problem of the eventual exhaustion of the IPv4 address space but also offers other enhancements. IPv6 addresses are 16 bytes long, in contrast to IPv4’s 4-byte addresses. We have already spoken about what is IPv6 and its improvements over IPv4. Now let us tell you more about the features that come with IPv6.

Previous versions of IPv4 used a 32-bit addressing scheme to support 4.3 billion devices. With the rapid development of the Internet, personal computers, smartphones, and IoT devices, it is clear that connected devices require more addresses than the IPv4 address space. IPv6, on the other hand, uses a 128-bit address, which allows approximately 3.4 × 10 ^ 38 addresses. IPv6 uses eight sets of four hexadecimal digits (separated by colons) instead of four sets of one to three digits IPv4 address methods.

 

Here are some reasons why you might want to opt for IPv6 over IPv4:

  • No more Network Address Translation (NAT)
  • Built-in authentication & privacy support
  • No need for DHCP
  • Improved multicast routing
  • Automatic configuration
  • Prevention of private address collisions
  • QoS Flow Label

 

The successor of IPv4 is not designed to be backward compatible. Trying to keep the basic functionalities of IP addressing, IPv6 is redesigned entirely. It offers the following features:
Larger Address Space
Compared with IPv4, IPv6 uses 4 times more bits to address devices on the Internet, which will provide an address space for approximately 3.4 × 10 ^ 38 devices. This address space can meet the aggressive requirements for allocating addresses for almost everything in the world. According to an estimate, 1564 addresses can be assigned to every square meter of this planet.
Simplified Header
The IPv6 header was designed to be less complex and easier to process than the IPV4 header by moving all unnecessary information and options (which are present in the IPv4 header) to the end of the IPv6 header.
End-to-end Connectivity
With IPv6, each device has a unique IP address and can traverse the Internet without using NAT or other translating components. After IPv6 is fully implemented, each host can directly access other hosts on the Internet, but it will encounter some restrictions, such as firewalls and organizational policies.
Auto-configuration
IPv6 supports both stateful and stateless auto-configuration modes of its host devices. This way, the absence of a DHCP server does not put a halt to inter-segment communication.
Faster Forwarding/Routing
A simplified header puts all unnecessary information at the end of the header. The information contained in the first part of the header is adequate for a Router to make routing decisions, thus making the routing decision-making process as quickly as looking at the mandatory header.
IPsec
Initially, it was decided that IPv6 must have IPsec security, making it more secure than IPv4. Unfortunately, this feature has now been made optional.
No Broadcast
Though Ethernet/Token Ring is considered a broadcast network because they support Broadcasting, IPv6 no longer has broadcast support. It uses multicast to communicate with multiple hosts.
Anycast Support
This is another characteristic of IPv6. IPv6 has introduced the Anycast mode of packet routing. In this mode, multiple interfaces over the Internet are assigned the same Anycast IP address. Routers, while routing, send the packet to the nearest destination.
Mobility
IPv6 was designed while keeping mobility in mind. This feature enables hosts (such as mobile phones) to roam around in different geographical areas and remain connected with the same IP address. The mobility feature of IPv6 takes advantage of auto IP configuration and Extension headers.
Enhanced Priority Support
IPv4 used 6 bits DSCP (Differential Service Code Point) and 2 bits ECN (Explicit Congestion Notification) to provide Quality of Service. Still, it could only be used in the end-to-end devices that support it; that is, the source and destination device and underlying network must support it. In IPv6, Traffic class and Flow label are used to tell the underlying routers how to process the packet and route it efficiently.
Smooth Transition
A large IP address scheme in IPv6 enables the allocation of devices with globally unique IP addresses. This mechanism saves IP addresses, making NAT no longer a necessity. So machines can send/receive data among each other; for example, VoIP and/or any streaming media can be used much more efficiently. Another fact is, the header is less loaded, so routers can make forwarding decisions and forward them as quickly as they arrive.
Extensibility
One of the significant advantages of the IPv6 header is that it is extensible to add more information in the options part. IPv4 provides only 40-bytes for options, whereas options in IPv6 can be as much as the size of the IPv6 packet itself.

 

We hope that with the help of this detailed article, you were able to learn more about the IPv6 protocol and why it is being put in place instead of the widely-used IPv4. We outlined the main advantages of going with IPv6, as well as its main features. If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave them in the comment section below.