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IPv4 versus IPv6

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IPv4 versus IPv6

The main practical difference between IP version 4 and IP version 6 is the address length. IPv6 address is 128 bit long, as opposed to 32 bits in IPv4. It implies the possibility to assign a globally unique identifier to every network device, as there are more than 3x1038 IP addresses available. According to Dean (2009), “IPv6 offers a more efficient header, better security, and better prioritization provisions than IPv4, plus automatic IP address configuration” (p. 156). The Internet and Intranet routing are also more straightforward in IPv6 protocol since there is no need to hide the private addresses behind the routers and NAT (network address translation) devices.

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A shortage in the available IPv4 addresses forces the organizations to implement the IPv6 protocol. All major vendors of the telecom equipment offer the IPv6-enabled devices for more than a decade now and the growing number of companies benefit from the new approach. However, the IPv4 - IPv6 migration requires a completely new IP addressing scheme and the whole procedure should be carefully planned. The migration is justifiable if the majority of the company’s computers have to access remote resources directly and if the IPv4 address translation mechanism overcomplicates the environment. Another reason for the migration might be the better QoS (Quality of Service) level in IPv6 compared to IPv4 (White, 2012, p. 278). If these criteria are not met, the IPv4 could be left in place for a long time without any downsides.

The dynamic IPv6 addressing is a matter of the organization’s choice. The company can use a DHCPv6 mechanism (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) or the stateless address autoconfiguration feature in order to manage automatically the IPv6 addresses assignment. However, the simple static configuration can be much more appropriate in small to middle networks. Since there will be no need for the private IP addressing, the configuration could be done only once throughout the whole equipment’s lifecycle.

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