Internet Protocol

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Internet Protocol (IP) is the method through which data is sent from one computer to another by means of an Internet connection. The IP uniquely identifies a node on the Internet. [1]

TCP/IP standards are set by the IETF. Given the core relevance of TCP/IP protocols to the Internet, they are the most guarded protocols.

How Does the IP Operate?

Each computer or device, known as the "host", has at least one IP address which differentiates it from other computers. When data is sent over the Internet the information is divided into small bits known as "packets", which contain the Internet address of the sender (packet's origin) and the receiver host address (destination device). There are the two main numeric addresses and components of each data package.

The Internet Protocol's main duty is to deliver these "packets" to the right destination, but it is not responsible for the order in which the packages arrive. Putting the packages into the right order so that the message/data/information is accurately sent is the responsibility of the Transmission Control Protocol.[2]

The IP considers each package of data as a unique and independent unit of information but the IP must always be in contact with the TCP in order to send the message. The latest IP version is IPv6 which succeeded IPv4. There are some important differences between IPv6 and IPV4 which make the last version more functional and effective.

IP Versions

Currently, there are two IP versions in use: IPv4 and IPv6 and each of these versions describes the IP in a different manner. [3]

According to IPv4, the address contained 32 bits which functioned on private networks and multicast networks. The IPv4 addresses consist of four decimal numbers ranging between 0-255, but the IPv4 address can also be represented in binary, octal or hexadecimal forms. The IPv4 addresses were exhausted due to the low supply of allocated addresses from IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) and the RIRs (Regional Internet Registries). [4]

IPv4 has a capacity of just 4.3 billion IP addresses of the 4.3 billion IPv4 addresses, only 3.7 are usable by ordinary Internet access devices. The others are used for special protocols like IP multi-casting.

IPv6 was created as a solution to the inevitable threat posed by the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses. The Internet Engineering Task Force was involved in its creation as it decided to explore new technologies by expanding the address capability of the Internet. [5]IPv6 does not guarantee a sufficient quantity of addresses but it definitely enables an efficient aggregation and allocation of rooting prefixes for routing nodes.

IPv6 has 340 undecillion (340 x 10 ^36) addresses. To put this in perspective: consider our galaxy, the milky way has estimated 300 billion stars (300 x 10 ^9). This is to say there are a trillion trillion trillion more IPv6 addresses than stars in our galaxy.

The main challenge facing the deployment of IPv6 however, is the lack of backward compatibility between IPv6 and IPv4.

Networks using IPv6 cannot communicate directly to those, still dominant today, using IPv4.

References

  1. IP definition
  2. IP process
  3. IPv6
  4. IPv4
  5. IPv6 and IETF