Do you know that the system you’re reading this article on has a unique numerical identifier called an IP address?
Every device connected to the internet that uses the Internet Protocol is given an IP address, also known as an Internet Protocol address.
Typically, IP addresses are used to locate and identify devices on the internet, enabling them to connect. Every internet-connected equipment, including a computer, phone, or server, has a specific IP address distinguishing it from other hardware devices.
IP addresses are available in two types of versions: IP version 4 and IP version 6. This article will go into the debate of IPv4 vs. IPv6 and demonstrates the variations between IPv4 and IPv6.
We will start with an introduction to IP addresses.
Table Of Content
- Introduction of IP Addresses
- What is an IPv4 Address?
- What is an IPv6 Address?
- IPv4 vs IPv6: Understanding the Differences
- Advantages of IPv6 Over IPv4
Introduction of IP Addresses
An IP address is a union of numbers separated by dots. These combinations are assigned to every device on the Internet or local network that uses Internet Protocol to exchange information.
The well-known IP address is 192.168.1.1. The given IP address is divided into four segments. Here, the first set of numbers identifies the network, while the last group identifies the specific device on the web.
IP addresses are available in two flavors: version 4 (v4) and version 6 (v6).
IPv4 has a 32-bit address space and supports approximately 4.3 billion unique addresses. IPv6 has a 128-bit address space, which will help to provide infinite unique addresses.
Let’s look into these versions in more detail.
What is an IPv4 Address?
IPv4 is the more traditional version that ARPANET introduced in 1983. As you read this, it remains the version with most users of the Internet Protocol.
IPv4 addresses are 32-bit integers, meaning it consists of four groups of eight binary digits, or octets, represented by a decimal number ranging from 0 to 255.
Each group of octets is separated by a period, and the complete address is written in dotted-decimal notation: 192.168.0.1
IPv4 addresses contain network and host portions. The host portion shows the specific device on a network, while the network portion identifies the network to which the device is connected.
As you can imagine, billions of IPv4 addresses can be generated by combining different network and host portions. So far, IPv4 addresses are still going strong and identify devices that are connected to networks.
However, the proliferation of Internet-connected devices has led to the fast depletion of the available pool of IPv4 addresses. Since each device connected to the internet requires an IP address, a new Internet Protocol version, IPv6, was introduced in 1995.
However, IPv4 continues to be used today and is expected to remain so in the computable future.
What is an IPv6 Address?
The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) developed IPv6, the most recent Internet protocol version, which supports localizing computer network endpoint systems.
IPv6 addresses are introduced to overcome the limitations and issues of the previous version, IPv4.
IPv6 addresses are 128-bit hexadecimal numbers that are separated by colons instead of dots, unlike IPv4. Eight groups of four hexadecimal digits each generate this number. Each segment can be any hexadecimal value between 0 and FFFF and is then separated by colons: 2001:db8:3333:4444:5555:6666:7777:8888
As you can see, IPv6 provides a bigger address space, allowing trillions of devices to be connected to the internet, compared to the 4.3 billion addresses of IPv4.
Another significant improvement that IPv6 addresses offer is that it provides better security features by using Internet Protocol Security (IPsec), which enhances the protection of data transmitted over networks.
At the same time, IPv6 addresses help improve the speed and efficiency of network packet travel and the ability to use multicast for communication with multiple devices.
Many experts term IPv6 as IPng (Internet Protocol next generation) because of the security and efficiency introduced by this system of IP addresses.
Now that the introductions are done, let’s examine the major points in the IPv4 vs. IPv6 debate.
IPv4 vs IPv6: Understanding the Differences
Although both versions serve the same purpose, there are significant differences between IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. Understanding these differences is vital for anyone who wants to keep up with the IPv4 vs. IPv6 debate.
The following table summarizes the significant differences between IPv4 and IPv6 and how these differences impact internet connectivity.
|Size||IPv4 addresses are 32-bit in length||IPv6 addresses are 128-bit in length.|
|Separator||The four fields of an IPv4 address are separated by a . (dot).||The eight fields of an IPv6 address are separated by a : (colon).|
|Header Size||IPv4 addresses have a header size of between
20- 60 bytes.
|IPv6 addresses have a fixed header size of 40 bytes.|
|Authentication and Encryption||IPv4 addresses don’t come with any authentication or encryption services||IPv6 addresses come with authentication or encryption services|
|Fragmentation||In IPv4, forwarding routers & the sender perform fragmentation||In IPv6, only the sender performs fragmentation|
|Address Classes||There are five different classes in IPv4: Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D, and Class E.||There are no classes in IPv6.|
|Security||IPv4 offers no native security features.||IPv6 offers integrated Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) that works across several network architecture layers.|
|Address Configuration||IPv4 supports manual and DHCP configuration methods.||IPv6 supports renumbering and automatic address settings.|
|Address Types||IPv4 supports unicast, multicast, and broadcast address types||IPv6 supports unicast, multicast, and anycast address types. There is no support for broadcast.|
|Address Resolution Protocol (ARP||ARP is used to map IPv4 addresses to MAC addresses.||In IPv6, ARP is replaced by a Neighbor Discovery Protocol (NDP) function.|
|DNS Records Type||IPv4 uses DNS, A record type to map hostnames to IPv4 addresses||IPv6 uses DNS AAAA record type to map hostnames to IPv4 addresses|
Advantages of IPv6 Over IPv4
While IPv4 is still a popular choice, IPv6 offers several features and improvements over IPv4. Here’s a rundown of these options.
Larger Address Space
IPv6 has a much bigger location space than IPv4. In practical terms, this means IPv6 can supply an infinite number of unique IP addresses. This ample address space is one of the biggest reasons behind IPv6 replacing IPv4 in the coming years.
IPv6 includes inbuilt security features, such as IPsec, which adds encryption and authentication services for network traffic. This makes it more secure than IPv4, which requires additional security measures to secure the benefits.
IPv6 offers enhanced network performance by reducing overheads such as the size of routing tables and streamlining the routing procedure. As a result, it delivers better and more effective data transport than IPv4.
Easier Network Management
IPv6 offers greater network management ease, which has helpful features such as auto-configuration. This feature enables devices to configure network settings automatically without manual configuration involvement. This simplifies network administration.
Improved Quality of Service
Alternatively, IPv6 offers better Quality of Service (QoS) options. This allows network managers to set traffic priorities and prioritize crucial data over less critical data.
Compared to IPv4, IPv6 provides much better support for multicasting (enabling data to be broadcasted to several recipients at once). This means IPv6 is a finer option for video conferencing and online gaming.
In short, IPv6 provides a more secure, efficient, and scalable network protocol than IPv4, and its adoption is essential for the continued growth of the Internet.
We hope you now have a good idea of the IPv6 vs. IPv4 debate and the essential points of the discussion. You also read about the crucial differences between the two protocols. Finally, we rounded off with the benefits offered by IPv6.
As the IPv6 adoption rate increases, we’ll see businesses transitioning from IPv4 address schemes and implementing IPv6-based network addresses.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q- Which is faster, IPv4 or IPv6?
In some cases, IPv6 has slightly better speed than IPv4.
Q- What is a checksum field?
IPv4 employs the checksum field in the header structure to handle errors. IPv6 doesn’t have a checksum field.
Q- Why is IPv6 a better option for the future?
IPv6 offers a significantly increased address space. As a result, it can keep up with the growing number of people, devices, and linked items on the Internet.
Q- Is IPv6 backward compatible with IPv4?
Yes, IPv6 includes mechanisms for backward compatibility with IPv4, allowing devices that support IPv6 to communicate with devices that only support IPv4.
Q- Will I need to upgrade my devices to use IPv6?
Most modern devices already support IPv6, but some older devices may require upgrades or replacements to fully support the new protocol.
Q- Do all internet service providers (ISPs) support IPv6?
Many ISPs already support IPv6, but some may still be transitioning from IPv4 to IPv6. It’s essential to check with your ISP to see if they support IPv6 and if there are any specific configuration requirements.
Q- Can IPv4 and IPv6 exist simultaneously?
Yes. Interoperability between dual-stack IPv4/IPv6 devices and IPv4-only, IPv6-only, and other dual-stack IPv4/IPv6 devices is possible. When two devices are dual-stacked and communicating, they can choose which IP version to use.