November 2007

Relevance of IPV6 in e-Governance

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e-Governance in India is still in nascent stages in comparison to developed nations. However it is going to come up in a big way. Government of India has ambitious plans for it.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recently asked the government to amend ISP licence definition IP addresses (to include 128-bit binary code, from 32-bit at present); to mandate the use of IPv6 in

e-Governance, procurement and IT systems/ networks; set up National Internet Registry (NIR) and various test beds to help transition to new technologies.

Problems with IPv4

The major weakness of IPv4 (Internet Protocol Version 4) is its limited addressing space, as in this an address consists of just 32 bits.

Address space is limited to 4 billion hosts in 167 million networks. The limitation is severed furthermore by classification of IP addresses into A-. B-, C-, D- and E-Class nets. The net classes define the ratio of subnets (e.g. enterprise networks, university networks) to hosts in the subnets.

There is no resource (bandwidth) reservation (for time-critical data transmissions as audio and video). Also, there is the missing support for mobile servers. Mobile servers change IP address every time they connect to the internet.

Estimated growth for Broadband and Internet subscribers in India envisaged through various technologies is as follows:

The above data shows that in the coming years IPv4 might not support the subscriber base efficiently.

What is IPv6

Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is a network layer standard used by electronic devices to exchange data across a packet-switched internetwork. It follows IPv4 as the second version of the Internet Protocol to be formally adopted for general use. Invented by Steve Deering and Craig Mudge at Xerox PARC, IPv6 was adopted by the Internet Engineering Task Force in 1994, when it was called ‘IP Next Generation’ (IPng). (Incidentally, IPv5 was not a successor to IPv4, but an experimental flow-oriented streaming protocol intended to support video and audio.) IPv6 is intended to provide more addresses for networked devices, allowing, for example, each cell phone and mobile electronic device to have its own address. IPv4 supports 4.3×109 (4.3 billion) addresses, which is inadequate to give one (or more if they possess more than one device) to every living person. IPv6 supports 3.4×1038 addresses, or 5×1028 for each of the roughly 6.5 billion people alive today.

Features of IPv6:

  • Larger address space (128 bits long)
  • Stateless autoconfiguration of hosts

Multicast (both on the local link and across routers) is part of the base protocol suite in IPv6. This is in opposition to IPv4, where multicast is optional and only rarely deployed across routers.

  • Faster routing
  • Network-layer security

What is new in IPv6?

The protocol adds many improvements to IPv4 in areas such as routing and network auto-configuration. A provision is included to allow easier auto-configuration of hosts and re-numbering of the IP addresses in networks and sub-networks as needed without the need for manual configuration or DHCP.

IPv6 improves scalability of multicast routing by adding a ‘scope’ field to multicast addresses. It also offers a new type of address, the ‘anycast addressing’ which improves the support for multicasting. This new kind of addressing basically says, ‘deliver this message to the easiest-to-reach member of this group,’ and potentially enables new types of messaging functionality.

The new IP datagram format has been redefined and given new capabilities. The main header of each IP datagram has been streamlined, and support added for easily extending the header for datagrams requiring more controlled information. IPv6 datagrams include Quality of Control (QoS) features, allowing better support for multimedia and other applications requiring QoS. Security support is designed into IPv6 using the authentication and encryption extension headers and other features.

The way that fragmentation and reassembly of datagrams works has been changed in IPv6 to improve efficiency of routing and better reflect the realities of today’s networks. The IPv6 protocol is designed to support modern routing systems, and to allow expansion as the Internet grows.

Main Advantages of IPv6

  • Expand addressing capabilities;
  • Server-less auto-configuration (plug-n-play) and  e-Configuration;
  • More efficient and robust mobility mechanisms;
  • Built-in, strong IP-layer encryption and authentication;
  • Streamlined header format and flow identification,  and;
  • Improved support for options/extensions
  • The structure of an IPv6 packet header.

Transition Mechanisms for IPv6

To coexist with an IPv4 infrastructure and to provide an eventual transition to an IPv6-only infrastructure, generally following mechanisms are used:

  • Dual IP layer
  • IPv6 over IPv4 tunneling and
  • Domain Name System (DNS) infrastructure.

Is transition really urgent?

North America has enough IPv4 addresses to take them through many years compared to the Asia-Pacific region. The IPv4 addresses in Stanford University are more than those in China. This shows that the Asia-Pacific region has a shortage, as the US had taken a bulk of the capacity much earlier.

This is the main reason for choosing the Asia-Pacific region and the region will soon run short of addresses. With the explosive growth of 3G devices in the region, it will have to look for options other than IPv4. The rest of the world is already much in action to implement IPV6. In Europe, two projects – 6NET and Euro61X – as well as 40 research projects are being conducted to test interoperability, and initiate deployment of advanced network services. Japan has allocated the equivalent of $70 million for IPv6 research and development, and South Korea is working on policies. Hence it is high time India must intensify its efforts in this line.

Conclusion

The existing version IPv4 with over 4-million 32-bit addresses is not sufficient to handle the enormous growth of Internet users, wireless subscribers, mobile devices, portable computers and wide range of IP-enabled devices that would be come to the market. The IPv6, Internet Engineering Task Force’s (IETF), solution to overcome the limitations of IPv4 comes with 128-bit address and many new and
useful features.

At present the Asia-Pacific region including India has not run out of IPv4 addresses. But the region will soon run short of addresses in comparison to the western world. It is high time that efforts (logistics, R&D etc.) are made out for transition from IPv4 to IPv6.
The pervasiveness and development of the Internet, coupled with the emergence of mobile connectivity devices, is a phenomenon that has revolutionised communication. IPv6 as an emerging technology will change the way networking works, and will become the standard on which networking the Internet and communication will rest.

References

  • Sean Convery, Darrin Miller, “IPv6 and IPv4 Threat Comparison and Best Practice Evaluation  (v1.0)” at http://www.cisco.com/web/about/security/security_services/ciag/documents/v6-v4-threats.pdf
  • Marc E. Fiuczynski, Vincent K. Lam Brian N. Bershad, “The Design and Implementation of an IPv6/IPv4 Network Address and Protocol Translator”
  • Press release from Press Information Bureau, India dated 28.02.2006
  • Consultation paper on Issues relating to Transition from IPV6 to IPV6 in India dated 26.08.2005 by TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India)
  • The  article in The Times of India, New Delhi titled “TRAI wants Ipv6 usage in e-governance” dated 21.12.2005
  • Thorsten Brikey “Security Measures to couple mixed   IPv4/IPv6 Networks over a pure IPv6 Infrastructure by making Use of NAT-PT”. SANS Institute (01.08.2003)
  • Broadband Policy 2004, Government of India, Department of Telecommunications (http://www.dotindia.com/broadbandpolicy2004.htm)
  • “IPv6: changing the way networking works”: Article in Network Magazine (July 2005) (www.networkmagazineindia.com)

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