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Industrial Ethernet Book Issue 73 / 93
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Push for IPv6:In pursuit of hybrid address space

"IT'S ALL ABOUT evolution, not revolution" as Rockwell Automation's Paul Brooks said, and it really doesn't seem to matter too much that there are now no more IPv4 address blocks left unfilled anywhere in the world. Things continue to connect with other things and NAT rides to the rescue under almost all circumstances.

So why is there any pressure to bring in IPv6 when we are all using private address space to all intents and purposes?

The answer seems to be, says Brooks, that the US government has mandated that there shall be v6 compatibility in all internetconnected devices bought and incorporated as part of US government contracts. And in China, where there are absolutely no v4 address blocks to be had, the Chinese National Development and Reform Council - some name tags always seem to echo back to that country's communist past - has pledged to invest US$1.3bn over the next five years enabling v6 infrastructure. The technology has been developed, the standards are set and the force behind IPv6 is all about government intervention.

'Critical to success...'

As far as the ODVA and its technologies are concerned, the adaptation to IPv6 touches almost every aspect of EtherNet/IP architecture without changing anything and that is the trick: backwards compatibility with IPv4. The outcome of the work presently being undertaken by the EIP Architecture SIG "will be a slim volume which makes v6 simple to understand... We need to ensure that v4 devices, or the ability of a v4 host to communicate with [a new generation of] hybrid devices will be critical to a successful outcome."

However, between that position and the current one, there is much work to be done. "Our own IT department at Rockwell has done a lot of work under the hood to ensure that IPv4 and v6 coexistence will work properly, and that the implementation of IPv6 will be a slow and smooth process" said Paul Brooks.

The detail in moving to IPv6 is significant for EtherNet/IP; TCP and UDP, the second of these being the lynch pin of the protocol, are treated the same and remain the same under both v4 and v6. However Neighbour Discovery Protocol replaces Address Resolution Protocol and the new Multicast Listener Discovery will be required.

Brooks added that 'the only feasible design approach for EIP network devices will be a v4 and v6 hybrid architecture: there are no IPv6 controllers out there and the business case insists on a v4/v6 hybrid device.'

Source: Industrial Ethernet Book Issue 73 / 93
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