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IPv4 vs. IPv6

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Introduction

Internet protocol is referred to as an IP. Each device linked to a network receives an IP address. Every device communicates using an IP address. It specifies the packets’ technical format. TCP/IP refers to the combination of both networks, IP and TCP, which are primarily used together. The source and the destination are connected virtually by it.

IPv4 and IPv6 are both binary integers that represent IP addresses.  Both IP addresses are used to identify networked machines. They are nearly identical in theory, yet they operate differently. This article covers detailed knowledge of IPv4 and IPv6 and their differences.

 

Internet Protocol (IP)

An IP (Internet Protocol) address is a numerical identifier assigned to each device connected to a computer network that employs the IP protocol for communication. An IP address serves as an identifier for a certain device on a network. The IP address is also an IP number or an internet address.

The IP address determines the technical format of the addressing and packet mechanism. Most networks combine IP with Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). It also enables creation of a virtual connection between a destination and a source.

 

What is IPv4?

IPv4 stands for Internet Protocol version 4. It is the fourth version of the Internet Protocol and is the most widely used protocol on the internet. It provides the basic framework for addressing and routing data packets across the internet.

Using its 32-bit address space, IPv4 can generate about 4.3 billion IP addresses. This address space is separated into several classes to give networks and devices IP addresses, including Class A, Class B, and Class C.

IPv4 is a connectionless protocol, meaning each packet is sent independently of any other packet and may take a different path to reach its destination. It also provides no inherent security mechanisms, although some security features can be added to the protocol.

The IPv4 address pool is running out due to the internet’s explosive growth and the rising number of connected devices. As a result, a newer version of the protocol, IPv6, has been developed with a much larger address space.

 

Benefits of IPv4 

IPv4 has several benefits, including:

 
  • Wide Adoption: IPv4 is the most widely used protocol on the internet and is supported by virtually all network devices, operating systems, and applications. This makes it easy to deploy and use in various environments.
 
  • Simple Addressing Scheme: IPv4 uses a 32-bit address space, which is relatively easy to understand and manage. This makes assigning and configuring IP addresses for devices and networks easy.
 
  • Established Infrastructure: IPv4 has been around for many years and has a well-established infrastructure, including routing protocols, security mechanisms, and other tools and services that make it reliable and secure.
 
  • Support for Network Address Translation (NAT): To save IPv4 address space and enable more devices to connect to the Internet, NAT enables several devices to share a single public IP address.
 
  • Mature Ecosystem: IPv4 has a mature ecosystem of tools, applications, and services developed over many years. This makes finding support and solutions for various issues and challenges related to IPv4 easy.
 

Drawbacks of IPv4

 
  • Infrastructure

Individual address prefixes are given in IPv4 so that each can function as a new router. Moreover, today’s internet uses both flat and hierarchical routers. The internet backbone routers, however, have more than 85 000 routes.

 
  • Mobility

Even though IPv4 has a mobility specification, it is considered ineffective. The fact that it has its infrastructure accounts for this. As a result, its mobility nodes are also ineffective.

 

What is IPv6?

IPv6 stands for Internet Protocol version 6. It is the successor to IPv4, designed to replace the limited address space of IPv4 with a much larger address space. IPv6 uses a 128-bit address space, which provides approximately 340 undecillion unique IP addresses.

 

Benefits of IPv6

IPv6 has several benefits over IPv4, including:

 
  • Large Address Space: IPv6 uses a 128-bit address space, which provides an almost unlimited number of unique IP addresses. This means that it can support the growth of the internet and the increasing number of devices that connect to it.
 
  • Improved Security: IPv6 includes built-in security features, such as IPsec, which provides encryption and authentication for network traffic. This makes it more secure than IPv4, requiring additional security measures to be added to the protocol.
 
  • Better Performance: IPv6 has a simpler header structure than IPv4, which reduces the processing overhead on network devices and can improve network performance. It also includes features like flow labeling, which enables efficient handling of specific types of traffic.
 
  • Support for New Services: IPv6 includes support for new services and protocols, such as multicast, anycast, and mobility management. This makes it easier to develop and deploy new applications and services that require these features.
 
  • Simplified Network Configuration: IPv6 includes features like stateless address autoconfiguration, simplifying network configuration, and reducing the need for manual configuration of IP addresses. It also supports unique local addresses, which can be used for private networks without requiring NAT.
 
  • Improved Quality of Service (QoS): IPv6 supports QoS features, such as flow labeling, that allow for more efficient handling of specific types of traffic. This can improve the overall performance and reliability of the network.

 

Drawbacks of IPV6

  • IPV6 is not available to devices that use IPV4
 
  • It is time to switch to IPV6
 
  • A large IPV4 user base still exists, and IPV6 adoption is gradual worldwide.
 
  • Any expenses spent by the user due to the need to replace an IPV4 device
 
  • The transition from IPV4 to IPV6 takes time and effort.
 
  • Even under the most peculiar conditions, devices running IPV4 and IPV6 cannot directly connect.
 

Address Format

An IPv4 address is a 32-bit decimal address. It has four octets or fields separated by a ‘dot,’ with each field being 8 bits in size. Each field’s value should be between 0 and 255. In contrast, an IPv6 address is a 128-bit hexadecimal address. It has eight fields separated by a colon, each of which is 16 bits in size.

address-format

 

Comparison between IPv4 and IPv6

IPv4 IPv6
Fields IPv4 is a numeric address that consists of 4 fields that are separated by a dot (.). IPv6 is an alphanumeric address that consists of 8 fields, which are separated by a colon.
Classes IPv4 has five different IP address classes, including Class A, B, C, D, and E. IPv6 does not contain classes of IP addresses.
VLSM It supports VLSM (Virtual Length Subnet Mask). Here, VLSM means that Ipv4 converts IP addresses into a subnet of different sizes. It does not support VLSM.
Address configuration It supports manual and DHCP configuration. It supports manual, DHCP, auto-configuration, and renumbering.
Fragmentation The senders and the forwarding routers do fragmentation. Fragmentation is done by the senders only.
Security Features In IPv4, security is determined by the application. This IP address was not created with security in mind. IPSEC is a security protocol designed for IPv6.
Transmission Scheme IPv4 is broadcasting IPv6 is multicasting
 

Conclusion

IPv4 and IPv6 are two versions of the Internet Protocol, each with its characteristics and capabilities. IPv4 has been used for several decades and is still the dominant protocol on the internet. IPv6, on the other hand, offers several advantages over IPv4, including larger address space, improved security, and more efficient packet processing.

However, the adoption of IPv6 has been slower than anticipated due to the large number of devices and networks that still rely on IPv4 and the complexity of transitioning from IPv4 to IPv6. As a result, both protocols will likely coexist for many years, and network administrators will need to ensure that their networks can support IPv4 and IPv6 traffic.

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