IP v6 – who cares and/or so what?

For reasons that escape me, many of my initial pokings at IP v6 devolve into references to things in the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (the novel, and not the actual guide, which doesn’t actually exist, mostly.)

IP v6 on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPv6

There are several reasons above and beyond wanting to be in front of early-adopter customers:

  • Its improved address space is both larger and better organized, which makes managing information from/about large numbers of devices easier.
  • Improvements and additions to protocols, specifically I’m thinking about
    • Multicast (sending a single packet to multiple destinations)
    • potential for improved performance, especially when transiting routers because v6 routers never fragment a packet
    • Mobile routing as efficient as “regular” routing
    • Jumbograms – want 4 GiB in a packet?  OK.  NO problem.

Lastly, at least for the moment, is that IP v6 seems to be surrounded by an SEP field.  Rather than waiting for someone else to do something about it, we’re going to grasp the nettle firmly and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and eat our own dogfood.  Or something.  It’s going to have to happen, because v4 is already creaky.  To quote a total scumbag, we really need to “get thar fust with the most men.”

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has this to say about IP v6’s address space,

“Bigger than the biggest thing ever and then some. Much bigger than that in fact, really amazingly immense, a totally stunning size, real ‘wow, that’s big’, time. Infinity is just so big that by comparison, bigness itself looks really titchy. Gigantic multiplied by colossal multiplied by staggeringly huge is the sort of concept we’re trying to get across here.”

In the interest of honesty, as slim as that may be, I should also point out that the HHG actually says that about infinity, and not IP v6, but it could have.  Perhaps this quote is a bit more accurate,

The car shot forward straight into the circle of light, and suddenly Arthur had a fairly clear idea of what infinity looked like. It wasn’t infinity in fact. Infinity itself looks flat and uninteresting. Looking up into the night sky is looking into infinity — distance is incomprehensible and therefore meaningless. The chamber into which the aircar emerged was anything but infinite, it was just very very big, so that it gave the impression of infinity far better than infinity itself.

That’s why it’s important.  Because there’s room for everything.  Everything, or nearly enough everything that anything left over isn’t worth bothering oneself about.  Currently, IP v4 is 32 bits of address space, which if it were evenly parceled out, would give about 2/3 of the people on the planet a single address.  Not nearly good enough, since the phone companies want everyone to have a phone, right?

IP v6 has 128 bits/16 bytes, which as described above, is beyond big.  “In a different perspective, this is 252 (about 4.5×1015) addresses for every observable star in the known universe.” – Wikipedia article on IP v6.  When CygNet is ready to monitor every cell and bacterium in your body, we’ll be able to assign each of them their own IP address. 

So, yes, rather large enough.  For now.


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