With mobility being one of the biggest business challenges in 2018, the need and increasing demand for robust and reliable mobile communication forces organizations to reconsider the way they work, which tools they use, and what options are given to employees to communicate and collaborate efficiently. But there is one nearly untouched matter in this context that inevitably will turn into a driving force for mobility and interconnectivity at a completely new level: IPv6.
Why IPv4 fails to deliver all-time connectivity
Today more than ever, we are constantly on the move rather than actually present in an office. Instead of working at fixed desktops, we are travelling to clients´ premises or conferences, working in hotel lobbies or business lounges at the airport, or finalizing important projects during late evening hours from our home office. This constant change of physical location has a direct impact on our communication patterns, including all devices in use and the networks those devices are connecting to. How often have you had a VoIP call that suddenly dropped when moving between different networks? If you are lucky, you will get through again and reach this important client or business partner to close a crucial deal. But what happens when technology does not seem to be on your side?
The root of this problem lies within the structure of IPv4 and how it has shaped the way internet traffic has been routed so far. With the enormous increase of devices connecting to each other, spawning the development of IoT technology, IPv4 has reached its limitations. Using 32-bit addresses, IPv4 is not sufficient to provide each device with its own unique IP address. Even though IP Mobility has been part of IPv4, moving in different networks still causes IP addresses for mobile devices to change frequently, resulting in interruptions.
It's become clear that a new protocol needs to be implemented to ensure steady connectivity between devices as well as future availability of IP addresses. Even though, until now, NAT has successfully delayed the exhaustion of IP addresses, there is no way around IPv6 which, using a 128-bit address, is technically designed to never run out of capacity.
How IPv6 supports mobility
The new IPv6 protocol follows the exact same design principles as its predecessor when it comes to the identification and location of devices as well as the routing of network traffic across the internet. But with IPv6, the amount of available IP addresses increases by 7.9×1028 compared to IPv4, leading to seemingly infinite availability for IP addresses.
While the main achievement of IPv6 is to solve the problem of IPv4´s address exhaustion, it also provides a crucial feature that takes mobility to an entirely new level. With IPv6, IP Mobility now allows a host to roam around different links without losing connection with its IP address. This avoids the tear down when moving across different networks and consequently ensures real and uninterrupted mobility.
Another huge benefit of IPv6 lies within the possibility to connect devices to each other at any time in any location, allowing them to communicate easily and frictionless with each other. With all devices running on IPv6, businesses inherit mobility automatically and enable their users to preserve one singular IP address for their device while communicating across different networks. Specifically, VoIP communication benefits greatly from IPv6 as it improves QoS and scalability. Another great advantage of IPv6 is that it allows entire subnets to be easily moved without renumbering them, for example when changing an internet provider.
IPv6 gaining momentum
Developed already in the late 90s, IPv6 became an official internet standard only in 2017. Surely, the fact that NAT has enabled some temporary solution to the exhaustion of IP addresses with IPv4 played a major role for this delay. But with the increase of devices used within or to even greater extent outside businesses´ premises, the implementation of a new standard that facilitates uninterrupted real-time communication within the internet of things becomes inevitable.
It's expected that both protocols will be used in parallel for a very long time, creating two independent networks. Since IPv4 and IPv6 are not interoperable, the transition will be a certain challenge, but there are already transition mechanisms such as NAT64 in place. Furthermore, translator gateways can be used as intermediary trans-protocol systems facilitating the communication between hosts using different protocol versions. Meanwhile, most popular software solutions with networking capabilities comply with IPv6, and IPv6 is also supported by the main operating systems in use within commercial, business and consumer environments.
While IPv4 carried more than 99% of the internet traffic worldwide in 2014, Google reported in December 2017 that by then its services were reached with IPv6 by 22.6% of all users. This indicates an increasing expansion of IPv6, even if unevenly spread over different regions.
It's only a matter of time until IPv4 will be replaced and IPv6 will assume its position as the standard protocol for the Internet. When will you switch to IPv6 and make your organization's communication flow future-proof?