Internet Protocol version 4 or IPv4 is the standard IP address used since the early 80’s. IPv4 is a 32 bit address that looks like this (192.168.154.130). There are three parts of an IPv4 address which identify the network, host and subnet number. While IPv4 has many benefits and has served the IT community for decades it is beginning to be phased out for multiple reasons. The main reason for the transition to IPv6 is that IPv4 addresses are nearing depletion. There is a limited supply of IPv4 address totaling 4.294 billion. This is not even enough IP addresses for every person on the planet.
Internet Protocol version 6 or IPv6 is the next evolution of IP addresses that provides a solution to the depletion of IPv4 and offers several other benefits. IPv6 is a 128 bit address that looks like this:
As you can see IPv6 is an alphanumeric address with eight groups separated by colons, each two bytes. There are many benefits of IPv6 over IPv4. First, security is built into IPv6 with IPSEC where as IPv4 is dependent upon the application where it must be configured. Additionally, with the increase in networked technologies, especially IoT devices IPv6 will allow for much more scalability. IPv6 allows for trillions of new addresses which makes it almost infinitely scalable from our perspective.
Currently we are attempting to transition to IPv6 from IPv4 which has been a slow process. Right now we are coexisting between the two options which requires some conversion that complicates things.
The need for converting network traffic complicates the use of technology by requiring more steps and ancillary technologies to successfully communicate. It will be much easier if everything could be upgrade to IPv6 all at once but this will have be done slowly for now. One of the methods of sending traffic from IPv4 to IPv6 is accomplished through the use of dual stack routers. This allows hosts with both IPv4 and IPv6 to communicate with one another which would normally not be possible. Another method of communicating between the two is through the use of tunneling. This allows both IPv4 and IPv6 to communicate with what is called a transit network. This transit network acts as an intermediary that converts the communication into something the other version can understand.