Jan 8, 2023 3 min read

IPv6 Transition

IPv6 Transition

As illustrated in the previous section there is a shortage of IPv4 addresses available to the public. Because of this depletion of available addresses as well as other considerations it is important that organizations begin to transition to the updated IPv6. In addition to practically unlimited address space IPv6 offers other benefits such as no fragmentation which allows for more efficiency when processing packets of data. This leads to higher performance such as better speeds and processing power for an organization’s network. IPv6 also provides new security features such as end to end encryption which will better ensure the integrity and confidentiality aspects of information security (Bali, 2020). Below is a short video that explains many of the aspects of IPv6 such as structure, subnetting and compression.

One of the main challenges facing the transition to IPv6 is that the majority of IT infrastructure around the world still uses IPv4. In order to migrate to IPv6 organizations will have to either use transition mechanisms that allows IPv6 and IPv4 to communicate with one another or they will have to completely overhaul their IT infrastructure. Depending on the size of the organization this could be an extremely time intensive and costly investment. Additionally, organizations must consider the opportunity cost of halting operations for a period of time to migrate their infrastructure to IPv6. There will also be a period of troubleshooting and periodic lapses in service after the transition as equipment is upgraded or replaced. This can cost a large corporation tens of millions of dollars of lost revenue (ETSI, 2020).

IPv6 Transition Methods

There are three primary methods that are commonly used in the transition from IPv4 to IPv6. These are dual stack routers, tunneling and network address translation. The first of the three, dual stack routers are a technology that allows the user to configure a server in such a way that it can communicate with both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. Hosts that use either of the two address types will be able to communicate with the dual stack router which will then effectively translate the communication. This allows the hosts to communicate normally as if they were transferring data using the same IP format without the need to change their current IP address. Below is a graphic that illustrates the design of a network using a dual stack router.

The next method is called tunneling which is a technique that transfers the network data through a central medium which converts the traffic. The medium acts as an intermediary tunnel which each network can communicate with. The medium acts as an individual network in between the two or more networks configured in either IPv4 or IPv6. The tunnel encapsulates and decapsulates the packet headers of each IP on the network and upgrades them in transit. There are two types of tunnels, automatic and manually configured. Automatic tunnels take advantage of IPv6 addresses that have embedded IPv4 data within them which makes the process easier. IPv6 addresses that don’t have this feature will need to be configured manually. Below is an illustration of how the tunneling method works (TP-Link, 2022).

The third method used to transition IPv4 to IPv6 is through the use of network address translation (NAT). Normally IPv6 an IPv4 address cannot communicate with one another but this can be fixed by altering the header of one address type to the other. A network address translation - protocol translation (NAT-PT) router can be used to communicated between two IP versions by being place in between two hosts. The NAT-PT router removes the header from one version and replaces it with one from the receiving address. However, there are several constraints when using NAT-PT due to its complexity. Because of these scaling constraints NAT-PT is generally not a good option for large organizations. Below is a graphic which illustrates how a network using NAT-PT functions (Cisco, 2020).

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