IPv6 vs. IPv4
The first question most people have is what exactly is IP? Well, it is short for Internet Protocol and the definition below is derived from a TechTarget article:
The Internet Protocol (IP) is the method or protocol by which data is sent from one computer to another on the Internet. Each computer (known as a host) on the Internet has at least one IP address that uniquely identifies it from all other computers on the Internet.*
It is almost like the home addresses of your computer, mobile phone, tablet, etc. (this isn’t totally accurate but helps give you an idea of the purpose). Seems pretty simple, right?
Why the need for the change in versions? Well it’s the same reason as the evolution of area codes for phone numbers, as a population we are about to run out of available addresses and we aren’t going to give up our devices. We need more numbers.
IPv6 vs IPv4: Is that the only difference?
Of course not! That would make for a very boring post, but it is the major difference. To put it in perspective, IPv4 can only provide roughly 4,300,000,000 addresses, but IPv6 ups the ante to about 340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 addresses. IPv6 also offers:
- Built-in multicasting: IPv4 was based on broadcast systems. So it needs to be enabled for multicasting. This is necessary for streaming multimedia applications. Instead of going through the additional steps to enable this, IPv6 is built with the capability already in mind.
- More efficient routing: IPv6 reduces the size of routing tables, which makes the processing of them more efficient.
- Larger packet size support: IPv6 can easily deliver larger multimedia object, voila your ability to stream Netflix’s captivating documentaries for hours on end.
All in all, it IPv6 is more suited to how we use computing devices today as compared to the way of thought that dominated IPv4’s 1981 release.
Does everyone use IPv6?
No, actually a surprisingly small number are using IPv6 connections and part of the reason for that is a lack of availability. See the chart** below that breaks down IPv6 capability and preference percentages to see it’s overall low penetration throughout the globe.
|Code||SubRegion||IPv6 Capable||IPv6 Preferred||Samples|
|XQ||Northern America, Americas||26.49%||24.07%||58177511|
|QO||Western Europe, Europe||19.36%||17.94%||30168774|
|QM||Northern Europe, Europe||5.30%||4.73%||17020672|
|XP||South America, Americas||5.30%||4.95%||43828021|
|QN||Southern Europe, Europe||3.31%||3.16%||18094450|
|QP||Australia and New Zealand, Oceania||3.22%||2.73%||4594225|
|XS||Eastern Asia, Asia||2.97%||2.61%||160719846|
|XW||Eastern Europe, Europe||2.32%||2.01%||31710089|
|XU||South-Eastern Asia, Asia||1.30%||1.10%||40305122|
|XT||Southern Asia, Asia||0.64%||0.58%||93122889|
|XV||Western Asia, Asia||0.40%||0.02%||22195476|
|XK||Southern Africa, Africa||0.22%||0.21%||5153461|
|XO||Central America, Americas||0.08%||0.07%||14034488|
|XH||Eastern Africa, Africa||0.06%||0.05%||15681108|
|XJ||Northern Africa, Africa||0.04%||0.03%||17416552|
|XL||Western Africa, Africa||0.03%||0.02%||16563987|
|XI||Middle Africa, Africa||0.02%||0.00%||2136992|
|XR||Central Asia, Asia||0.01%||0.00%||5040970|
Why aren’t more people using IPv6?
While it is definitely an improvement over IPv4, a number of workarounds have been created in order to push back the total extinction of available IPv4 addresses which makes it still available to use. Overall, organizations and ISPs have gotten comfortable using Network Address Translation (NAT), which allows them to use one IP address to identify many machines and would prefer to not make the more costly IPv6 investment.
The biggest adopters of IPv6 in the world today include several big names, but even these organizations are not at 100% deployment; most are barely at 50%. The list below is the top 10 networks in terms of IPv6 deployment activities as of December 9, 2015:
|1||Comcast||7015, 7016, 7725, 7922, 11025, 13367, 13385, 20214, 21508, 22258, 22909, 33287, 33489, 33490, 33491, 33650, 33651, 33652, 33653, 33654, 33655, 33656, 33657, 33659, 33660, 33661, 33662, 33664, 33665, 33666, 33667, 33668, 36732, 36733||41.87%|
|2||ATT||6389, 7018, 7132||52.38%|
|4||Verizon Wireless||6167, 22394||71.38%|
|5||Time Warner Cable||7843, 10796, 11351, 11426, 11427, 12271, 20001||23.59%|
|7||Deutsche Telekom AG||3320||24.61%|
How to know if your network providers use IPv6?
The easiest way to figure it out is to run this test by going to the following url: http://test-ipv6.com/. If your tests returned negative, then chances are your:
- OS is too old
- Router doesn’t support IPv6
- ISP hasn’t enabled IPv6 for you yet
Of these reasons, the last is the most likely reason why you are shown still using IPv4.
Why should you switch to IPv6 from IPv4 if you haven’t already?
If you are an ISP, equipment vendor or web company and answer yes to any of these questions below, then you most likely are in a position where you should be switching to IPv6:
- Do I need to extend or fix my IPv6 network?
- Are you running out of address space?
- Do you have applications that are based on advanced features of IPv6?
- Do you need end to end security for a large number of users and you do not have the address space, or you struggle with a NAT implementation?
- Do you have hardware or applications that are at the end of their life?
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