An IPv6 packet has two parts: a "header and "payload.
The header consists of a fixed portion with minimal functionality required for all packets and may be followed by optional extensions to implement special features.
The fixed header occupies the first 40 "octets (320 bits) of the IPv6 packet. It contains the source and destination addresses, traffic classification options, a hop counter, and the type of the optional extension or payload which follows the header. This Next Header field tells the receiver how to interpret the data which follows the header. If the packet contains options, this field contains the option type of the next option. The "Next Header" field of the last option, points to the upper-layer protocol that is carried in the packet's "payload.
Extension headers carry options that are used for special treatment of a packet in the network, e.g., for routing, fragmentation, and for security using the "IPsec framework.
Without special options, a payload must be less than 64KB. With a Jumbo Payload option (in a Hop-By-Hop Options extension header), the payload must be less than 4 GB.
Unlike with IPv4, routers never fragment a packet. Hosts are expected to use "Path MTU Discovery to make their packets small enough to reach the destination without needing to be fragmented. See "IPv6 packet fragmentation.
"IPv6 addresses have 128 bits. The design of the IPv6 address space implements a very different design philosophy than in IPv4, in which subnetting was used to improve the efficiency of utilization of the small address space. In IPv6, the address space is deemed large enough for the foreseeable future, and a local area subnet always uses 64 bits for the host portion of the address, designated as the interface identifier, while the most-significant 64 bits are used as the routing prefix.
The identifier is only unique within the subnet to which a host is connected. IPv6 has a mechanism for automatic address detection, so that address autoconfiguration always produces unique assignments.
The 128 bits of an IPv6 address are represented in 8 groups of 16 bits each. Each group is written as four hexadecimal digits and the groups are separated by colons (:). An example of this representation is 2001:0db8:0000:0000:0000:ff00:0042:8329.
For convenience, an IPv6 address may be abbreviated to shorter notations by application of the following rules.
- One or more "leading zeroes from any groups of hexadecimal digits are removed; this is usually done to either all or none of the leading zeroes. For example, the group 0042 is converted to 42.
- Consecutive sections of zeroes are replaced with a double colon (::). The double colon may only be used once in an address, as multiple use would render the address indeterminate. "RFC 5952 recommends that a double colon must not be used to denote an omitted single section of zeroes.
An example of application of these rules:
- Initial address: 2001:0db8:0000:0000:0000:ff00:0042:8329
- After removing all leading zeroes in each group: 2001:db8:0:0:0:ff00:42:8329
- After omitting consecutive sections of zeroes: 2001:db8::ff00:42:8329
The loopback address, 0000:0000:0000:0000:0000:0000:0000:0001, may be abbreviated to ::1 by using both rules.
As an IPv6 address may have more than one representation, the IETF has issued a "proposed standard for representing them in text.
Hosts verify the uniqueness of addresses assigned by sending a neighbor solicitation message asking for the Link Layer address of the IP address. If any other host is using that address, it responds. However, MAC addresses are designed to be unique on each network card which minimizes chances of duplication.
The host first determines if the network is connected to any routers at all, because if not, then all nodes are reachable using the link-local address that already is assigned to the host. The host will send out a Router Solicitation message to the all-routers multicast group with its link local address as source. If there is no answer after a predetermined number of attempts, the host concludes that no routers are connected. If it does get a response from a router, there will be network information inside that is needed to create a globally unique address. There are also two flag bits that tell the host whether it should use DHCP to get further information and addresses:
- The Manage bit, that indicates whether or not the host should use DHCP to obtain additional addresses
- The Other bit, that indicates whether or not the host should obtain other information through DHCP. The other information consists of one or more prefix information options for the subnets that the host is attached to, a lifetime for the prefix, and two flags:
- On-link: If this flag is set, the host will treat all addresses on the specific subnet as being on-link, and send packets directly to them instead of sending them to a router for the duration of the given lifetime.
- Address: This is the flag that tells the host to actually create a global address.
Link local address
All interfaces of IPv6 hosts require a link-local address. A link-local address is derived from the MAC address of the interface and the prefix fe80::/10. The process involves filling the address space with prefix bits left-justified to the most-significant bit, and filling the MAC address in EUI-64 format into the least-significant bits. If any bits remain to be filled between the two parts, those are set to zero.
The uniqueness of the address on the subnet is tested with the "Duplicate Address Detection (DAD) method.
The assignment procedure for global addresses is similar to local address construction. The prefix is supplied from router advertisements on the network. Multiple prefix announcements cause multiple addresses to be configured.
Stateless address autoconfiguration (SLAAC) requires a /64 address block, as defined in "RFC 4291. "Local Internet registries are assigned at least /32 blocks, which they divide among subordinate networks. The initial recommendation stated assignment of a /48 subnet to end-consumer sites ("RFC 3177). This was replaced by "RFC 6177, which "recommends giving home sites significantly more than a single /64, but does not recommend that every home site be given a /48 either". /56s are specifically considered. It remains to be seen if ISPs will honor this recommendation. For example, during initial trials, "Comcast customers were given a single /64 network.
IPv6 addresses are classified by three types of networking methodologies: "unicast addresses identify each network interface, "anycast addresses identify a group of interfaces, usually at different locations of which the nearest one is automatically selected, and "multicast addresses are used to deliver one packet to many interfaces. The "broadcast method is not implemented in IPv6. Each IPv6 address has a scope, which specifies in which part of the network it is valid and unique. Some addresses are unique only on the local (sub-)network. Others are globally unique.
Some IPv6 addresses are reserved for special purposes, such as "loopback, "6to4 tunneling, and "Teredo tunneling, as outlined in "RFC 5156. Also, some address ranges are considered special, such as link-local addresses for use on the local link only, Unique Local addresses (ULA), as described in "RFC 4193, and solicited-node multicast addresses used in the "Neighbor Discovery Protocol.
IPv6 in the Domain Name System
In the "Domain Name System, "hostnames are mapped to IPv6 addresses by AAAA resource records, so-called quad-A records. For "reverse resolution, the IETF reserved the domain "ip6.arpa, where the name space is hierarchically divided by the 1-digit "hexadecimal representation of "nibble units (4 bits) of the IPv6 address. This scheme is defined in "RFC 3596.
At the design stage of the IPv6 DNS architecture, the AAAA scheme faced a rival proposal. This alternate approach, designed to facilitate network renumbering, uses A6 records for the forward lookup and a number of other innovations such as bit-string labels and DNAME records. It is defined in "RFC 2874 and its references (with further discussion of the pros and cons of both schemes in "RFC 3364), but has been deprecated to experimental status ("RFC 3363).
IPv6 is not foreseen to supplant IPv4 instantaneously. Both protocols will continue to operate simultaneously for some time. Therefore, some "IPv6 transition mechanisms are needed to enable IPv6 hosts to reach IPv4 services and to allow isolated IPv6 hosts and networks to reach each other over IPv4 infrastructure.
Many of these transition mechanisms use tunneling to encapsulate IPv6 traffic within IPv4 networks. This is an imperfect solution, which reduces the "maximum transmission unit (MTU) of a link and therefore complicates "Path MTU Discovery, and may increase "latency. "Tunneling protocols are a temporary solution for networks that do not support native dual-stack, where both IPv6 and IPv4 run independently.
Dual IP stack implementation
Dual-stack (or native dual-stack) IP implementations provide complete IPv4 and IPv6 protocol stacks in the same network node. This facilitates native communications between nodes using either protocol. The method is defined in "RFC 4213.
This is the most desirable IPv6 implementation during the transition from IPv4 to IPv6, as it avoids the complexities of tunneling, such as security, increased latency, management overhead, and a reduced "path MTU. However, it is not always possible, since outdated network equipment may not support IPv6.
Dual-stack software design is a transitional technique to facilitate the adoption and deployment of IPv6. However, it might introduce more security threats as hosts could be subject to attacks from both IPv4 and IPv6. It has been argued that dual-stack could ultimately overburden the global networking infrastructure by requiring routers to deal with IPv4 and IPv6 routing simultaneously.
Many current Internet users do not have IPv6 dual-stack support, and thus cannot reach IPv6 sites directly. Instead, they must use IPv4 infrastructure to carry IPv6 packets. This is done using a technique known as "tunneling, which encapsulates IPv6 packets within IPv4, in effect using IPv4 as a link layer for IPv6.
IP protocol 41 indicates IPv4 packets which encapsulate IPv6 datagrams. Some routers or network address translation devices may block protocol 41. To pass through these devices, UDP packets may be used to encapsulate IPv6 datagrams. Other encapsulation schemes, such as "AYIYA or "Generic Routing Encapsulation, are also popular.
Conversely, on IPv6-only Internet links, when access to IPv4 network facilities is needed, tunneling of IPv4 over IPv6 protocol occurs, using the IPv6 as a link layer for IPv4.
Automatic tunneling refers to a technique by which the routing infrastructure automatically determines the tunnel endpoints. Some automatic tunneling techniques are below.
"6to4 is recommended by "RFC 3056. It uses protocol 41 encapsulation. Tunnel endpoints are determined by using a well-known IPv4 anycast address on the remote side, and embedding IPv4 address information within IPv6 addresses on the local side. 6to4 is the most common tunnel protocol currently deployed.
"Teredo is an automatic tunneling technique that uses UDP encapsulation and can allegedly cross multiple NAT nodes. IPv6, including 6to4 and Teredo tunneling, are enabled by default in "Windows Vista and "Windows 7. Most Unix systems implement only 6to4, but Teredo can be provided by third-party software such as "Miredo.
"ISATAP (Intra-Site Automatic Tunnel Addressing Protocol) uses the IPv4 network as a virtual IPv6 local link, with mappings from each IPv4 address to a link-local IPv6 address. Unlike 6to4 and Teredo, which are inter-site tunneling mechanisms, ISATAP is an intra-site mechanism, meaning that it is designed to provide IPv6 connectivity between nodes within a single organization.
Configured and automated tunneling (6in4)
"6in4 tunneling requires the tunnel endpoints to be explicitly configured, either by an administrator manually or the operating system's configuration mechanisms, or by an automatic service known as a "tunnel broker; this is also referred to as automated tunneling. Configured tunneling is usually more deterministic and easier to debug than automatic tunneling, and is therefore recommended for large, well-administered networks. Automated tunneling provides a compromise between the ease of use of automatic tunneling and the deterministic behavior of configured tunneling.
Raw encapsulation of IPv6 packets using "IPv4 protocol number 41 is recommended for configured tunneling; this is sometimes known as "6in4 tunneling. As with automatic tunneling, encapsulation within UDP may be used in order to cross NAT boxes and firewalls.
Proxying and translation for IPv6-only hosts
After the "regional Internet registries have exhausted their pools of available IPv4 addresses, it is likely that hosts newly added to the Internet might only have IPv6 connectivity. For these clients to have backward-compatible connectivity to existing IPv4-only resources, suitable "IPv6 transition mechanisms must be deployed.
One form of address translation is the use of a dual-stack application-layer "proxy server, for example a web proxy.
NAT-like techniques for application-agnostic translation at the lower layers in routers and gateways have been proposed. The NAT-PT standard was dropped because of criticisms; however, more recently, the continued low adoption of IPv6 has prompted a new standardization effort of a technology called "NAT64.
Compatibility with IPv6 networking is mainly a software or firmware issue. However, much of the older hardware that could in principle be upgraded is likely to be replaced instead. The "American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) suggested that all Internet servers be prepared to serve IPv6-only clients by January 2012.
Host software may have only IPv4 or only IPv6 networking software, or it may support dual-stack, or hybrid dual-stack operation. The majority of personal computers running recent "operating system versions support IPv6. Many popular applications with networking capabilities are compliant.
Some software transitioning mechanisms are outlined in "RFC 4038, "RFC 3493, and "RFC 3542.
IPv4-mapped IPv6 addresses
Hybrid dual-stack IPv6/IPv4 implementations recognize a special class of addresses, the IPv4-mapped IPv6 addresses. These addresses consist of an 80-bit prefix of zeros, the next 16 bits are one, and the remaining, least-significant 32 bits contain the IPv4 address. These addresses are typically written with a 96-bit prefix in the standard IPv6 format, and the remaining 32 bits written in the customary "dot-decimal notation of IPv4. For example, ::ffff:192.0.2.128 represents the IPv4 address 192.0.2.128. A deprecated format for IPv4-compatible IPv6 addresses is ::192.0.2.128.
Because of the significant internal differences between IPv4 and IPv6, some of the lower-level functionality available to programmers in the IPv6 stack does not work the same when used with IPv4-mapped addresses. Some common IPv6 stacks do not implement the IPv4-mapped address feature, either because the IPv6 and IPv4 stacks are separate implementations (e.g., "Microsoft Windows 2000, XP, and Server 2003), or because of security concerns ("OpenBSD). On these operating systems, a program must open a separate socket for each IP protocol it uses. On some systems, e.g., the "Linux kernel, "NetBSD, and "FreeBSD, this feature is controlled by the socket option IPV6_V6ONLY, as specified in "RFC 3493.
Hardware and embedded systems
The "CableLabs consortium published the 160 Mbit/s "DOCSIS 3.0 IPv6-ready specification for "cable modems in August 2006. DOCSIS 2.0 was updated as DOCSIS 2.0 + IPv6 to provide IPv6 support, which may be available with a firmware upgrade.
One side effect of IPv6 implementation may be the emergence of so-called shadow networks caused by IPv6 traffic flowing into IPv4 networks when IPv6 enabled nodes are added to the existing network, and the IPv4 security in place is unable to properly identify it. This may occur with operating system upgrades, when the newer OS enables IPv6 support by default, while the older one did not. Failing to update the security infrastructure to accommodate IPv6 can lead to IPv6 traffic bypassing it. Shadow networks have been found occurring on business networks in which enterprises are replacing "Windows XP systems that do not have an IPv6 stack enabled by default, with "Windows 7 systems, that do. Some IPv6 stack implementors have therefore recommended to disable IPv4 mapped addresses and to instead use a dual-stack network where supporting both IPv4 and IPv6 is necessary.
Research has shown that the use of fragmentation can be leveraged to evade network security controls. As a result, "RFC 7112 requires that the first fragment of an IPv6 packet contains the entire IPv6 header chain, such that some very pathological fragmentation cases are forbidden. Additionally, as a result of research on the evasion of RA-Guard in "RFC 7113, "RFC 6980 has deprecated the use of fragmentation with Neighbor Discovery, and discouraged the use of fragmentation with Secure Neighbor Discovery (SEND).
The 1993 introduction of "Classless Inter-Domain Routing (CIDR) in the routing and IP address allocation for the Internet, and the extensive use of "network address translation (NAT) delayed "IPv4 address exhaustion. The final phase of exhaustion started on 3 February 2011. However, despite a decade long development and implementation history as a Standards Track protocol, general worldwide deployment of IPv6 is increasing slowly. As of September 2013[update], about 4% of domain names and 16.2% of the networks on the Internet have IPv6 protocol support.
IPv6 has been implemented on all major operating systems in use in commercial, business, and home consumer environments. Since 2008, the "domain name system can be used in IPv6. IPv6 was first used in a major world event during the "2008 Summer Olympic Games, the largest showcase of IPv6 technology since the inception of IPv6. Some governments including the "Federal government of the United States and "China have issued guidelines and requirements for IPv6 capability.
In 2009, Verizon mandated IPv6 operation, and reduced IPv4 to an optional capability, for "LTE cellular hardware. As of June 2012[update], T-Mobile USA also supports external IPv6 access.
As of 2014, IPv4 still carried more than 99% of worldwide "Internet traffic. The Internet exchange in Amsterdam is the only large exchange that publicly shows IPv6 traffic statistics, which as of December 2016 is tracking at about 1.9%, growing at about 0.8% per year. As of 24 December 2016[update], the percentage of users reaching "Google services with IPv6 reached 16.1% for the first time, growing at about 6.1% per year, although varying widely by region. As of 22 April 2015[update], deployment of IPv6 on web servers also varied widely, with over half of web pages available via IPv6 in many regions, with about 14% of web servers supporting IPv6.
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- "Happy Eyeballs
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- "RFC 4291, p. 9
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- S. Thomson, T. Narten, and T. Jinmei, ‘IPv6 Stateless Address Autoconfiguration’, Internet Request for Comments, vol. "RFC 4862 (Draft Standard), Sep. 2007 [Online]. Available: http://www.rfc-editor.org/rfc/rfc4862.txt
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As thousands of engineers, technologists have worked for a significant time to perfect this (IPv6) technology, there is no doubt, this technology brings considerable promises but this is for the first time that it will showcase its strength when in use for such a mega-event.
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