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Understanding IPv6 Address Shortcuts

If you build a network either for your home or office, you need to understand IP addressing. Old versions of IP assign network cards a 32-bit binary value as an address. This value is shown in decimal format called octets. Unfortunately, 32 bits isn’t enough addresses for the world’s growing internet. To remedy this situation, the IT industry came up with IPv6, which is a 128-bit binary address and offers trillions of possible addresses.

Remembering IPv4 addresses is easy, but IPv6 takes on a different format and numbering system. IPv6 uses hexadecimal notation to represent a 128-bit binary address. Imagine 128 uses ones and zeros as your address. It’s almost impossible to memorize unless you have a tremendously good memory. With hexadecimal notation, the 16-bit sections of an IPv6 address can be shortened into a 4-digit hexadecimal value.

Take a look at a standard IPv6 address.

2001:0db8:0000:1234:0000:0000:0052:0001

The first value is 2001, but you must remember that this is hexadecimal notation. 2001 in hexadecimal notation is not the same as 2001 in decimal form. 2001 is actually 8193 in decimal notation.

Notice that the second section has an alphanumeric value. Hexadecimal represents numbers from 0 to 15 or 0-10, A, B, C, D, E, and F. In a hexadecimal-to-decimal conversion, A is 11, B is 12, C is 13, D is 14, E is 15 and F is 16. This means that 11 in hexadecimal is the value of 17 in decimal. When you get to larger values hexadecimal numbers condense larger binary or decimal values into smaller notation. It’s the first step in understanding IPv6 address shortcuts. Each section of the IPv6 address represents 16 bits instead of the old IPv4 addresses that represented 8 bits for each section.

The next shortcut is eliminating all of the 0 values The value “0000” is 0 in any numeric notation. You can further create a shortcut by writing the IPv6 address using the following notation.

2001:0db8:0000:1234:: 0052:0001

The double colons tell routers and network cards that zeros should be inserted between the colons. You can only have one set of double colons, because routing protocols read this address and know that two sets of zeros should be inserted. There are always 8 sections in an IPv6 address. In this example, there are 6 sections, so routing protocols know to add 2 sets of zeros. If you had double colons in another section of the address, the routing protocol wouldn’t know how many sets of zeros to place in each section. You would then receive an error.

If your network supports IPv6, you can ping the address just as you would with an IPv4 address. All network functionality works the same with an IPv6 address scheme, except that you have more addresses available for devices.

Each device that connects to your network needs an IP, and with more mobile devices in development, it’s possible that you need more addresses than what IPv4 has to offer. IPv6 addresses are more difficult to remember, but they offer more address spaces. If you want to keep your network open to scalability and expansion, IPv6 is the solution.

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