IPv6 is the abbreviation for Internet Protocol version 6. It is the next generation protocol for Internet Layer, which will find use in packet-switched inter-networks and the internet. The presently used version of IP is IPv4, which was the first version to be widely accepted around the world. The IPv6 was designed with the aim of making it the successor of IPv4 by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in December, 1998. Its launch was established by publication of a Standards Track specification, namely, RFC 2460.
In December 2008, IPv6 celebrated its 10th anniversary as a next generation Standards Track protocol. However, IPv6 was still in its infancy as far as worldwide deployment is concerned. The study conducted by Google in 2008 revealed that less than 1% of internet-enabled in any country had adopted IPv6 as the standard. The leading countries in terms of adoption of this new technology were Russia (approx. 0.76%), France (around 0.65%), Ukraine (approx. 0.64%), Norway (nearly 0.49%), and finally United States (approx. 0.45%). Countries in Asia were in leading spot in terms of actual number of PCs that were using the technology, but in terms of percentage, the figure was much smaller (only about 0.24% for China).
IPv6 currently supports all operating systems that have widespread usage, including Windows® Vista, Mac OS X, and Linux. The study by Google revealed that Mac OS X users led the revolution in internet technology. As much as 2.44% of total users of IPv6 were Mac owners. This was followed by Linux (nearly 0.93% penetration) and Windows® Vista (around 0.32% acceptance).
The address space utilized by IPv6 is much larger than that used by IPv4. This is due to the fact that IPv4 only uses 32 bit addresses, while IPv6 is capable of using 128 bit addresses, thereby bumping up the total number of possible unique addresses to about 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456. Now that’s a lot of numbers! Add to this the flexibility of allocating addresses and routing traffic, not to mention rendering the requirement of network address translation (NAT) non-mandatory. NAT, which was widely used to offset the problem of address exhaustion with IPv4, will now slowly go out of existence.
Another facet of internetworking which will be benefited by usage of IPv6 will be network security. IPSec (Internet Protocol Security) was originally developed for usage with IPv6, but was reverse-engineered to make it compatible with IPv4. IPv6 thus has complete support for IPSec, making it one of the safest protocols ever to be used.