Internet Protocol version 6 - Introduction


The Internet Protocol (IP) was developed about 20 years ago as the network layer of the Internet's architecture. The combination of IP with a transport protocol, such as the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), means you can be assured that the data you send reaches its destination.

TCP is the transport protocol that is most commonly paired with IP. Originally designed to interconnect the large, dissimilar computer systems used by the U.S. Government, TCP/IP has mushroomed into a family of protocols in use world¬wide by private industry, governments, and the general public alike for connecting to the Internet.

There has been a phenomenal increase in the use of the Internet by individual users and corporations, and this is expected to continue. An additional need for access to the Internet is expected from market areas, such as Universal Personal Communications (UPC), cellular communications, cable television receivers, and even point-of-sale terminals. The Internet has fast become a very application-rich environment, spurred on by the increasing popularity of the World Wide Web.

This huge growth in usage and demand has almost exhausted the capabilities of the current version of the Internet Protocol, IPv4. Because of the increase in demands, there will not be enough IP addresses available, some experts believe, beyond the year 2010. Development of the Internet Protocol’s “next generation,” IPv6 (also known as IPng), is well underway as a replacement for IPv4.

This shortage of IP addresses created the need for a new IP version that provides a better addressing scheme; however, that is not the only change. IPv6 will also define a set of security services providing authentication and privacy, plus support for autoconfiguration and high-performance operation.

With IPv6, users around the globe will be able to have their networking needs met well past the beginning of and into the next century. As with any new software that so many users, applications, and networks depend on, there is great concern about the changes and how IPv6 will be integrated into existing systems. This booklet explains those changes and the planned transition process.

The next section in this booklet is a brief overview of the Internet Protocol and its role. Its a good idea to read this section as a refresher or as background information for subsequent sections.