Today is a landmark changing event and most of us wont even know its happening. Today is the day that IPv6 is being switched on.
What ? No applause ?
Ok so let me explain:
What is IPv6 ?
Traditionally that internet is run on a set of IP addresses. These tell network computers where each device is. Since none of us speak IP those clever IT people came up with a way to put characters into a browser and the computer did the work of translating it into IP. For example: when we want to go to Google we simple type : Google.co.za and the computer magically takes us there. What it is actually doing initially is looking up what is Google.co.za and it then works out that it is the IP address of 18.104.22.168 – your computer now know where to take you . This type of IP address is known at IPv4.
So each device that is connected to the internet has these IP addresses (think of them as a street address for your computer).
So what is the problem ?
The Internet growth has exploded so much that we are running out of these IP addresses to allocate to new devices. We now have desktop, laptop, netbook, tablet, & mobile phones all requiring internet connectivity.
Until now there were some clever tools that were put in place to extend the life of IP such as DHCP and NAT etc. but even those have now been exhausted.
IPv4 is proving to be inadequate for things like true network mobility, always on environments, instant connection of devices such as cars, home appliances etc. – there are literally millions of these that require instant IP addresses for connectivity.
So now what ?
Now we bring in a new way to connect. It is called IPv6. What it does is address the new method of connecting to the internet without the need for manual configuration nor using the traditional tools like DHCP.
IPv6 has almost unlimited IP numbers (Larger Address Space) and so the networks are able to offer end-to-end device reachability. In other words the network can control the way in which devices connect from the time they connect to where they need to get to.
The way in which the bits and bytes are handled around the internet are governed by a Header. In IPv6 this is simplified and improved making it faster and more efficient to move date from one place to another.
Another enhancement is added security. With IPv6 you have mandatory Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) which is a protocol suite for securing communications by authenticating and encrypting each IP packet. This will add a great layer of security.
Finally, IPv6 is built with mobility in mind right from the outset so being connected whilst on the move takes on a whole new meaning in speed and efficiency.
What you need to do ?
Nothing. The service provider will do all the work in the background. Most have already made the changes and will switch it on from today.
The current IPv4 will continue to work. If you go to a service that is running only IPv6 your data will be directed via a gateway that will handle your connections to the service.
So in summary:
IPv6 sounds complex and for the network IT administrators it it. However for everyone else we will see only improvements going forward.