IPv4 vs IPv6- In what way are they different?

What does Internet Protocol (IP) mean?

Before differentiating IPv4 from IPv6, its essential to know what is IP in its most basic sense.

IP addresses are unique labels assigned to each device communicating on a computer network using the IP protocol. In a network, an IP address is used to identify a specific device. IP addresses are also referred to as Internet addresses or IP numbers. A computer sends information by breaking it down into pieces called packets. All packets include IP information in order to ensure that they arrive at the right spot.

Think of IP address as a zip code used to locate your home. But each computer has its own unique address ie unique IP address. Just as a post office knows the exact location/address of your house and accordingly delivers your posts to you, the internet figure out the location of your pc with the help of this IP address. After that only, internet delivers the requested resource to the correct computer by using computer’s IP address.

The IP address specifies the addressing and packet schemes technical format. An IP network typically pairs with a TCP (Transmission Control Protocol). It also enables the creation of virtual connections between a source and a destination.

What is IPv4?

Even though it has “4” in its name, IPv4 was actually the first version of IP. The IPv4 address system has become a widely used method of identifying devices across networks. Initially deployed over the ARPANET in 1983, IP was the first real IP to deploy for manufacture. Version 4 of the Internet Protocol is known as IPv4. It is the technology that creates the connection between our devices and the internet. Any device accessing the Internet is assigned an IP address which is unique and numerical.  The IP address of each device must be included in a data packet sent from one computer to another via the web. Internet traffic carries 94% of the traffic over this protocol!

An IPv4 address looks like this:

32.253.431.175

Aren’t you quite familiar with the IP address above? Try to recall!

What is IPv6?

In the near future, IPv6 is expected to replace IPv4 as the next-generation Internet Protocol (IP) address standard. IPv4, the original IP address scheme, has run out of addresses because of the large number of devices connected to the Internet. In order to meet the increased demand for Internet addresses, this new version of IP addresses (IPv6) is being deployed. It allows 340 undecillion (340 X 1036) unique addresses with 128-bit address space IPv6 is also referred to as IPng (Internet Protocol next generation). It was initiated in 1994 by the Internet Engineer Taskforce. Those efforts are now called IPv6 development.

An IPv6 address looks like this:

3001:0bd4:0000:0000:0000:ee00:0033:8000

It seems that there are enough bits in the address, right?

What are the features of IPv4?

  • It’s a protocol that allows connectionless communication
  • With it, creating a simple virtual layer, which can cover a range of devices, is possible
  • Hundreds and millions of devices are already using this protocol
  • The memory requirements are less, and it is easier to remember addresses
  • Video libraries and conferences are available

What are the features of IPv6?

  • Routing and addressing infrastructure with hierarchical structure is possible
  • Configs with and without states
  • A quality of service (QoS) support system
  • Interaction between neighbouring nodes can be done via this protocol

Key difference between IPv4 and IPv6:

  • IPv6 address has length of 128-bit while IPv4 address has length of 32-bit
  • IPv4 can be configured manually or through DHCP. Furthermore, IPv6 supports automatic addressing and address renumbering.
  • End-to-end IPv4 connection integrity is not possible. End-to-end IPv6 connection integrity is possible
  • 4.29*109 address space can be generated in IPv4. There is quite a bit of useable space in IPv6. It can produce address spaces of 3.4*1038
  • In IPv4 individual applications are responsible for security features. IPv6 comes with an inbuilt security feature called IPSEC
  • IPv4 addresses are represented in decimal. On the other hand, IPv6 addresses are represented in hexadecimal.
  • In IPv4, Fragmentation carried out by senders and forwarders. Fragmentation is only performed by the sender in IPv6
  • It is not possible to identify packet flows in IPv4. A packetflow header field named flow label is used for packetflow identification in IPv6
  • IPv4 comes with a checksum field. IPv6 does not support checksumfields
  • While in IPv4 there is only broadcast messaging system available, there are multiple transmission schemes for multicasting and casting messages in IPv6.
  • No encryption or authentication facility is available in IPv4.  On the contrary, a key feature of IPv6 is encryption and authentication
  • IPv4 headers are typically 20-60 bytes in size. The IPv6 header has a fixed size of 40 bytes
  • Overall, IPv4 and IPv6 are fairly equal in terms of speed, though there are some indications that IPv6 may be slightly faster in certain cases.

Which one to choose: IPv4 or IPv6?

The addresses used by IPv4 for the Internet are 32-bit addresses. In total, 2*32 IP addresses can be supported, which makes 4.29 billion IP addresses. The number of IP addresses may seem excessive, but because they have all been assigned, we now face an address shortage. Internet addresses in IPv6 are 128-bit long. Therefore, it is capable of supporting 2128 Internet addresses. In comparison to IPv4, IPv6 addresses are 1028 times greater. As a result, there is sufficient IPv6 address capacity to accommodate the expansion of Internet devices for many years to come.

Computers, routers, switches, and other devices run both IPv4 and IPv6 protocols with Dual-IP stacks, but IPv6 is favoured. Typical business procedures involve enabling TCP/IP protocol stacks first on wide area network (WAN) core routers, then perimeter routers and firewalls, then data-center routers and finally access routers for desktops.

This should suffice for most people – IPv6 is different from IPv4 in its format and provides a far greater range of unique addresses.

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