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Advantages of IPv6 - The Next Generation Internet

The most important and most visible improvement brought by the new protocol is the enormous expansion of the available address space. An IPv6 address is made up of 128 bit values instead of the traditional 32 bits. This provides for as many as several quadrillion IP addresses.

However, IPv6 addresses are not only different from their predecessors with regard to their length. They also have a different internal structure that may contain more specific information about the systems and the networks to which they belong.

The following is a list of some other advantages of the new protocol:

IPv6 makes the network “plug and play” capable, which means that a newly set up system integrates into the (local) network without any manual configuration. The new host uses its automatic configuration mechanism to derive its own address from the information made available by the neighboring routers, relying on a protocol called the neighbor discovery (ND) protocol. This method does not require any intervention on the administrator's part and there is no need to maintain a central server for address allocation—an additional advantage over IPv4, where automatic address allocation requires a DHCP server.

IPv6 makes it possible to assign several addresses to one network interface at the same time. This allows users to access several networks easily, something that could be compared with the international roaming services offered by mobile phone companies: when you take your mobile phone abroad, the phone automatically logs in to a foreign service as soon as it enters the corresponding area, so you can be reached under the same number everywhere and are able to place an outgoing call just like in your home area.

Secure Communication
With IPv4, network security is an add-on function. IPv6 includes IPsec as one of its core features, allowing systems to communicate over a secure tunnel to avoid eavesdropping by outsiders on the Internet.

Backward Compatibility
Realistically, it would be impossible to switch the entire Internet from IPv4 to IPv6 at one time. Therefore, it is crucial that both protocols are able to coexist not only on the Internet, but also on one system. This is ensured by compatible addresses (IPv4 addresses can easily be translated into IPv6 addresses) and through the use of a number of tunnels. Also, systems can rely on a dual stack IP technique to support both protocols at the same time, meaning that they have two network stacks that are completely separate, such that there is no interference between the two protocol versions.

Custom Tailored Services through Multicasting
With IPv4, some services, such as SMB, need to broadcast their packets to all hosts in the local network. IPv6 allows a much more fine-grained approach by enabling servers to address hosts through multicasting—by addressing a number of hosts as parts of a group (which is different from addressing all hosts through broadcasting or each host individually through unicasting). Which hosts are addressed as a group may depend on the concrete application. There are some predefined groups to address all name servers (the all name servers multicast group), for example, or all routers (the all routers multicast group).

Configuring IPv6 on OpenSuse 11.1
To disable or enable IPv6 on an installed system, use the YaST Network Settings module. On the Global Options tab, check or uncheck the Enable IPv6 option as necessary. To enable IPv6 manually, enter modprobe ipv6 as root.


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