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The Future of IP Addressing (IPv6)

Even with the use of private network addressing, the growth of the Internet will eventually result in the current IP addressing scheme running out of addresses. The IETF, recognizing this, has been commissioned to create the next generation of the IP address.

Several published RFCs lay out the needs for the new protocol. This new release of the IP protocol, now known as IPv6, should begin to replace the current IPv4 as the pool of available IPv4 addresses dries up.

The following are major changes in the next release of IPv6:

  • Expanded addressing capabilities. The address size for IPv6 will be 128 bits, which will provide a larger pool of IP addresses for the Internet. This pool will provide each Internet user with a pool of IP addresses equal to the total number of IP addresses available on the Internet today.

  • Simplification of the IP header. Much of the IPv4 header information has been made optional or has been dropped entirely. This will speed up processing of the IP header information by receiving hosts.

  • Improved extensibility of the IP header. The IP header has been formatted to provide more efficient forwarding, more flexibility on the length of option fields, and easier inclusion of new options in the future. This will enable the IP header to change as the protocol evolves over the next few years, without having to redesign the entire header format.

  • Improved flow control. IP datagrams will be able to request better quality of service. This will include time-specific delivery of information and the capability to request a minimum bandwidth availability or real-time service.

  • Increase security. The IP header will include extensions to support authentication of source and destination hosts, and better assurance of noncorruption of data. This also will provide the option of encrypting data as it is transported over the network within the IP header construct.

These IP protocol enhancements should help the Internet continue to grow. They also should help continue the increase in functionality provided to applications using TCP/IP as their base protocol suite. Specific information about IPv6 is discussed on Day 21, "IPv6, the Future of TCP/IP?"

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