The transfer of information over the internet is a very complicated process which requires proper mechanisms to ensure that users get quality services in the shortest time ever. One way to enforce this is through the use of internet protocols which can be defined as accepted standards and regulations determining how information is transferred from one computer to another. Addressing is a major component of available internet protocols more so because of the large number of internet users all over the world. To enforce this, two popular addressing mechanisms exist; IPV4 and IPV6. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the history and the features of these protocols together with their associated strengths and weaknesses. The paper also highlights the associated costs involved when implementing the two protocols. The paper concludes by analyzing the future and trends of the two addressing protocols.
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IPV4 or internet protocol version 4 traces its origin from the time the internet was discovered. It can be attributed as a result of various projects and attempts by Defense Advanced Research Project Agency in the better part of 1970’s. The initial protocol was implemented as TCP (transfer control protocol) though subsequent developments have seen the two elements being separated. The fact IPV4 was designed to work on closed settings meant that the developers overlooked such issues like security and access mechanisms. However with the introduction and popularization of the internet, IPV6 started to be used in the “open, non trusted, unsecured, external network environments as wellâ€¦” (Majastor, 2003, pg1). In subsequent years the growth of the internet was tremendous, a condition which raised serious issues regarding the available number of address spaces for each and existing internet device. This saw initial efforts begun towards the development of a new protocol IPV6.
IPV6 or internet protocol version 6 is started off as an effort by Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in the early 90’s to address various limitations that were presented by IPV6. The main and initial focus was centered on the need to solve the problem of inadequate address space. In 1994 the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) approved IPV6 and the subsequent standards were adopted by IETF in 1998 (Hagen, 2002, pg 2). IPV6 is often referred to as the Next Generation Internet Protocol or just IPng although it is being put into practice in most internet devises today.
Majority of internet users use IPV4, a protocol which has been around for almost thirty years. IPV4 was designed to act as a connectionless mode of delivery specifically on the network link layer. This means that it does not guarantee delivery of data packets in a switched network. IPV4 uses 32 bit or 4 byte addresses which mean that the largest possible address space is limited t o 232 distinct addresses. Additionally the packet size of an IPV4 packet is only limited to 64 kilobytes of dataIPV4 addresses are presented in a unique manner which incorporates the use of decimal in between numeric values commonly referred to as dot decimal notation. For instance 192.168.0.3 whereby each octet represents a specific identifier in the entire network. The first octet represents the subnet mask of the network while the last three octets identify a specific network user or the host. IPV4 offers optional IPSec security mechanism although the packet header includes checksums to enhance data integrity. Anyone willing to set up a network which will use IPV4 addressing must manually configure the network or incorporate the valuable use of the DHCP server.
IPV4 employs both classless and classfull addressing mechanisms. Classfull addressing employs the use of various classes to assign network addresses based on the host, new net work and even reserve options for future network users. On the other hand classless addressing is the most common today since it employs the use of popular subnet masks. The Internet Management Group Protocol (IMGP) manages these subnets and is responsible for allocation and preservation of special purpose addresses. IPV4 uses the traditional method of broadcasting addressing to all nodes in a network before initiating a data transfer process. Some of the inadequacies present in IPV4 are addressed in IPV6.
The most distinct features differentiating IPV6 from IPV4 is in the size and number of address space. IPV6 supports address space of 128 bits long almost twice as that of IPV4. This means that the protocol can support as many addresses as up to 295 for practically every individual on the planet earth. Apart from the unique feature there are other changes that make IPV6 far more superior than IPV4. “The IPV6 package includes important features such as higher scalability, better data integrity, QoS features, auto configuration mechanisms that make it manageable even for higher numbers of dynamically connecting devices, improved routing aggregation in the backbone, and improved multicast routing” (Hagen, 2002, pg 4). The address structure of an IPV6 user is composed of up to 40 octets which is perhaps responsible for the large number of available address spaces. These addresses are represented in two distinct logical divisions which are separated by colons unlike decimals in IPV6. The first section represents the subnet mask while the second option stands represents the host.
The operational of IPV6 is stateless whereby the internet user or the host acquires the address automatically. Additionally IPV6 incorporates the use of multicasting technology in packet transmission which makes it easy in the transmission of multimedia information. IPV6 uses jumbograms which are packet of up to 232-1 octets as compared to IPV6 (216-1 ) which significantly improve the performance of the network. The IPV6 is more enhanced though it inherits and preserves some features from IPV4. The header is composed of a fixed portion length in fixed but the existence of extension headers provides more options for transmitting large packets of data, enhance security and routing options.(Hagen, 2002, pg 16).
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IPV6 is supposed to replace IPV6 in a few years time especially because the latter faces possible address exhaustion. Additionally IPV6 have superior advantages which gives it an edge over IPV4. IPV6 offers extended and improved addressing mechanisms. It is possible to have far much large number of addresses which are more than 32 bits longer. Furthermore the auto configuration capabilities make it easy for network users and administrators to manage the networks. IPV6 provides more security option specifically through the use of mandatory IPSec support (Miyamoto, 2008). Quality of server is another strong advantage of IPV6 which is implemented through labeling specific traffics that are supposed to meet certain traffic configuration conditions.
Despite the marvelous features that IPV6 possess, there are some drawbacks associated with it. This is to a larger extent associated with the size of the packet header. “Its larger headers require more space in buffers and tables. The extension approach to headers can be an issue in hardware implementations because, except for the first header, information isn’t located at a fixed offset from the start of the packet”. (Wong, 2002). The whole process might take a lot of time, before the receiver can identify payload contents. Despite this drawback IPV6 is expected to be of massive success though there will be a lot of challenges when it comes to implementation issues.
A major issue that raises a lot of concern is concerned with the strategies to be adopted to move from IPV4 to IPV6. This is where a lot of costs are estimated both financially and in terms of network performance. Issues like address resolution presents the biggest challenge. There has to be some defined way of ensuring that users migrate from IPV4 to IPV6 without any effect on network performance, quality of service and most important loss of important user data. The problem of legacy equipment providers is also expected to raise some serious concerns. There has to be specific manufactures of network equipments that will sufficiently support IPV6.Network Address Translation (NAT) is one of the best approaches to counteract the above challenges.
IPV4 is an important protocol that has been in use for quite some time but due to the fact the available addresses might get limited, it is paramount that users of internet adopt IPV6. IPV6 is designed to solve most of the problems and limitations in IPV4. The challenging aspect is concerned with adoption techniques and how users will respond to the anticipated changes. The fact that the protocol is being used by some internet users indicates the readiness and the appropriateness of the technology.
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