July 18 2023

The Importance of Transitioning to IPv6

The transition from IPv4 to IPv6: understand the importance and urgency of this evolution to ensure a more efficient, secure and sustainable future of Internet connectivity

IPv6

Internet Protocol version 6, or IPv6, represents the latest evolution in the world of communication protocols that govern Internet traffic. In comparison to its previous incarnation, IPv4, one of its most notable features is the use of 128-bit long IP addresses instead of the 32 bits used by IPv4. This expansion allows IPv6 to handle an almost infinite number of IP addresses, providing an effective solution to the insufficiency of IPv4 to meet the exponentially increasing demand for internet connectivity.

Furthermore, IPv6 enriches the sphere of online interaction by incorporating new features for security and traffic management, aspects that were either missing or inadequate in IPv4. Despite this, the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 has shown a rather gradual and slow progress, mainly due to issues related to compatibility with the old protocol and the need to upgrade the existing network infrastructure.

For more than two decades, the adoption of IPv6 has remained a recurring theme in the network landscape. While there has been steady growth in its adoption, we are still a considerable distance away from achieving full and widespread support for this new generation of IP addresses.

IPv4VS IPv6

IPv6, with its promise of greater efficiency, scalability and security, is likely to see its adoption slowed by a number of challenges and resistances. Among these, one of the most significant is the need to change, at least in part, the very conception of the network. This implies a deepening and an expansion of knowledge regarding the dynamics of network operation. However, once you understand how IPv6 works, it is more logical and practical than its predecessor IPv4.

IPv6 challenges the established beliefs of many industry professionals who have considered Network Address Translation (NAT) technology as a bulwark of security for the local network. However, the reality is that the security of a Local Area Network (LAN) cannot be ensured through the use of NAT alone. Some engineers, due to security concerns, choose to disable IPv6, believing it will cause more problems than good. This type of attitude demonstrates a lack of adequate and in-depth knowledge of IPv6 management.

Meanwhile, IPv4 addresses are almost completely sold out and the few that remain are being sold on the market for exorbitant prices. Service providers like Hetzner and OVH have increased their costs for IP addresses, further influencing the management dynamics. In contrast, IPv6, with its efficiency and adaptability to the modern interconnected world, offers a practically unlimited reserve of addresses.

However, the adoption of IPv6 is not without problems. For example, one of the challenges introduced by IPv6 is the seamless reachability of all devices through Direct Routing (without NAT), which emphasizes the importance of firewalls in managing network security. Understanding the dynamics of networks and subnets becomes more important than ever and, given the length of IPv6 addresses, it becomes almost impossible to memorize them.

Unfortunately, many operators still do not fully understand how IPv6 works and the almost infinite amount of addresses available. By assigning "only" a /64, they limit the potential for using IPv6, while an assignment of a /48 or a /56 would allow the creation of countless /64 subnets, facilitating the use of Stateless Address Autoconfiguration (SLAAC) for connected devices. Operators probably fear repeating the mistakes made with IPv4, when large numbers of addresses were allocated which then led to their current scarcity. Fortunately, IPv6, thanks to its large address space, frees us from similar concerns, even in the case of large-scale address wastage.

To accelerate the adoption of IPv6 and take full advantage of its benefits, we must push for a more widespread and rapid implementation. It is essential to learn how to use it correctly and abandon the old (often incorrect) criteria related to the technical limitations of IPv4. In this way, the quality of the networks will improve, the optimization will be more effective and everyone will benefit.

Therefore, it is essential to overcome the resistances and fears associated with IPv6, adequately train technicians and stay constantly updated on news. Only in this way can we guarantee a more efficient, secure and sustainable future for our networks and connected devices. The transition to IPv6 is now an inescapable imperative and our response to this challenge will determine the form and function of the future of Internet connectivity.

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