Time to upgrade the Internet [IPv6 vs IPv4]

By Team Digit | Published on 29 Apr 2010
Time to upgrade the Internet [IPv6 vs IPv4]

IPv6 has been spoken about for quite some time now, but we're yet to see it take off as a practical technology. Despite the advantages and flexibility, it has a long way to go before it replaces the current IPv4.We spoke to Shridhar Luthria, Manager, Channel Development, ResellerClub, Directi to understand all the hype and the subsequent implications surrounding IPv6. Luthria shed light on some myths surrounding Ipv6, costs and finances involved in implementation of IPv6. Additionally, he spoke on what it matters to us, as individuals and users of the internet – would it mean installing new software or hardware, and would other operating systems allow a smooth adoption?


1. What is IPv6?

IPv6 is the next generation Internet Protocol, which is meant to replace IPv4 and also work as an upgrade for the entire internet as a whole. It is a huge step up from IPv4 in terms of the space available and is mainly designed to counter the diminishing pool of IPv4 addresses.


2. How different is IPv6 from today’s internet?

An IPv4 address has 32 bits where as IPv6 address has 128 bits so if you compare the address pool - IPv4 is a golf ball and IPv6 would be close to the size of the sun. With IPv6, the Internet will be able to grow to million times its current size, in terms of the number of people, devices and objects connected to it.


IPv6 also contains more headers and is a better organized protocol that makes processing more efficient. It supports Quality of Service (QOS), which allows for special handling of certain type of packets and IPSEC which makes it more secure.


3. What difference will the common man experience with the implementation of IPv6?

The common man will probably not notice any major differences in terms of the usage of the internet. The biggest probable upgrade will be in communication services like VOIP and Video Conferencing but again this is just speculation. The new protocol will mostly impact service providers and companies on an immediate basis.


4. What are the advantages of IPv6?

IPv6 has many advantages but most importantly the availability of a much larger address space. Although this might seem like a moot point, having a larger address space is essential because it allows the internet to grow enough to make space for the growing number of devices going online and the ever-expanding telecommunications industry.


Additionally, IPv6 provides a better header format and is designed such that it can be easily extended to meet the requirements of emerging technologies or new applications. Also, QOS and IPSEC are great upgrades that will help better quality of services and security.


5. According to a Google study, IPv6 penetration is still less than 1 per cent in any country. So how serious is it anyway?

Firstly, I believe the Google study asks the wrong question. It aims at studying IPv6 usage which would obviously be low especially since the awareness levels are so low across the globe.


What I am more interested to know is how ready Service Providers and companies are; the infrastructure can be in place without being in use so usage is probably not the best metric. The major issues here are lack of knowledge, the lack of demand in the market and the issue of no backward compatibility.


6. Is it backward compatible?

The fact that IPv6 is not backward compatible has majorly hampered its adoption. Although there are mechanisms put in place to make IPv4 and IPv6 co-exist, they are only mechanisms to make the transition smooth. The eventual aim is to move to a IPv6 only internet.


7. What about infrastructure cost? Is India ready for it?

There are various costs involved in the transition including hardware, software and even training costs for existing staff. Arguably the best strategy would be to make the transition through a natural upgrade cycle as it is a common notion that shifting over a short period will end up being expensive. In India, the backbone infrastructure is pretty much in place with BSNL's National Internet Backbone being IPv6 ready and VSNL as one of the largest IPv6 ISPs in the world. However, I don't believe the general market is ready for IPv6 yet.


8. Can SMBs afford IPv6 implementation? Is it necessary?

Since most new routers and related hardware are made keeping IPv6 in mind, it should not be too much of a cost to upgrade to IPv6.


Although it is not necessary for SMBs to implement IPv6 on an immediate basis, like I mentioned before, if the implementation is undertaken over a short period, the cost can be that much higher.


9. Will it change the way web pages are rendered or designed? Will they have to be re-coded in any way?

No, there will not be any effect on the way web pages are designed and they will not need to be re-coded. However, rendering will have a certain impact but again that will be at the backend, without the need for any major changes.


10. What implication will it have on various operating systems such as Windows XP, Vista, 7, Linux distros, Mac, etc? Are they all ready to be configured?

Windows Vista, Mac OS X Panther and Linux 2.6.12 and the versions after them are already configured with IPv6. It is just a matter of changing settings.


11.   How active is the transition to IPv6 in India? What does the future hold?

In India, government bodies like TRAI and the IPv6 Programme Implementation Group (IPIG) have been instrumental in raising awareness about IPv6. Like I mentioned before, BSNL's National Internet Backbone is IPv6 ready and VSNL is one of the largest IPv6 ISPs in the world so thanks to prompt action from the governing bodies we do seem like we are on the right track for IPv6. The challenge now is adoption across ISPs and companies.


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