What does IPv6 do?

Currently the arrival of IPv6 to users around the world is also accelerating the adoption by companies, significantly increasing the estimated market size for IPv6.

What you may not have known is that today there are more and more things that can be done with IPv6, but not with IPv4. Let’s look at six of them:

1. IP Mesh Networks for IoT in the Home

In the home environment, a multitude of sensors operate with batteries and there are devices, such as light control, that require very low response times. In both cases, instead of Wi-Fi networks, it is necessary to use mesh networks (networks) with lighter protocols, which in the past gave rise to well-known home automation solutions such as zigbee or z-wave.

When the Internet standards body (IETF, Internet Engineering Task Force) addressed the definition of an IP protocol for these low cost and energy mesh networks (LowPANs), it decided to do so based on IPv6 and leaving IPv4 aside, resulting in the 6LowPAN standard (IPv6 over Low Power personal Area Network). One of the “early-adopters” of the 6lowpan standard was Nest, later acquired by Google, which published the openthread.io reference implementation.

In 2022, Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung and more than two hundred companies around the world have decided to adopt a home automation interoperability standard called “Matter”, which is based on IPv6 over Wi-Fi and Thread (in turn based on IETF 6LowPAN) over mesh networks.

Therefore, in 2023 devices such as Google Home, Amazon Alexa or Apple Home kit devices already implement (either in new devices or thanks to regular updates) Matter and border routers for Thread technology. In addition, we can already find dozens of manufacturers with commercial solutions for light bulbs, light panels, switches, electronic door locks and countless sensors.

2. Traffic Engineering through Todo-IP segmentation

Network segmentation is a different approach to traditional traffic engineering, which consists of identifying network sections with different characteristics and network services as segments with a unique identifier (SID). This makes it possible to agree with a provider in a predictable and easily reprogrammable way which path and which network services will apply to different flows.

Although there are segmentation solutions for non-IP networks (such as MPLS or SR-MPLS segmentation), there are many advantages in doing it directly at the IP level: firstly, it can be extended end-to-end since all network elements natively support IP (from the users to the host in the Datacenter) and, secondly, the architecture is further simplified (eliminating MPLS, for example).

Again, when the IETF has implemented a segmentation standard at the Internet Protocol level, it has done so based on IPv6 by creating the SRv6 (Segment Routing IPv6) standard and has not established an equivalent for IPv4 (which can be transported over SRv6 like other protocols).

3. Hyperscaling of Load Networking/Kubernetes

When we interconnect Kubernetes clusters, it is essential to create an overlay network, since private addresses cannot be routed over the Internet.

This complicates the design and operation of kubernetes-based microservices ecosystems, especially when we handle a certain number of clusters, since they will have to interconnect with VPN tunnels, making scaling very complicated. Also, we will have to decide which topology we will use: full-mesh, hub&spoke, star, etc.

However, as can be seen in the diagram on the right, there is a much simpler solution, which is to use public IPv6 addresses in our clusters. Obviously, the traffic will have to be properly filtered, for which the aggregation of IPv6 addresses will be an important ally.

Precisely for this reason, the current leader in cloud services, AWS, has migrated its environments and tools to evangelize its large clients about the use of IPv6-only in the backends.

4. Multicast IPv6 Bitcoin Transactions (Blockchain BSV)

There is a current within the cryptocurrency sector, specifically Bitcoin, that is betting on more distributed transaction models based on scalability, end-to-end (peer2peer) capabilities and the possibility of deploying IPv6 multicast services.

The truth is that numerous websites and servers in the bitcoin world have accelerated the adoption of IPv6, as published in “coingeek”.

We do not know the path that this movement will take within the WEB3.0 paradigm, but what it intends is to create a peer2peer digital cash system that allows direct and secure transactions between nodes with cryptographically generated IPv6 addresses (CGAs) and without the need to maintain a list of registered nodes (through IPv6 multicast groups instead). This system would eliminate intermediaries and would promote, according to its defenders, micro-payments or nano-payments between, for example, small IoT devices.

5. Dedicated Networks for Home Edge Computing

In addition to cloud services, the deployment of a multitude of edge computing services (Edge Computing) is emerging, closer to the users and/or origin of the data. Some of these edge services will be in the homes of users, who will also have to share access with navigation devices, access to media such as TVs, IoT devices in the home and new elements to manage, such as photovoltaic installations, etc.

If it is required to be able to organize the networks and services of the home or small offices (SOHO environments: Small Office / Home Office) with different connectivity, quality of service and security requirements, an easier way can be organizing the addressing, routing and filtering in the home according to these particular needs.

6. Alignment with the guidelines for organizations in different geographic areas

More and more government bodies and agencies are requiring an increase in the adoption of IPv6, providing in some cases a time frame for the implementation of IPv6-only solutions (“IPv6-only”) and even defining strategies for the future shutdown of IPv4 (“IPv4 sunset”).

If an organization operates in sectors such as telecommunications or critical infrastructures and services in which Internet protocols are used, it is important to pay attention to the information and recommendations published by the competent bodies in its geographic footprint.