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Microsoft Technology Position Paper

Updated: February 12, 2008

Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) is a critical technology that will help ensure that the Internet can support a growing user base and the increasingly large number of IP-enabled devices. The current Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) has served as the underlying protocol for the Internet for almost 30 years. Its robustness, scalability, and limited feature set is now challenged by the growing need for new IP addresses, spurred in large part by the rapid growth of new network-aware devices, such as cellular phones, and IP-based services, such as online gaming and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

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Why is IPv6 Important?
IPv6 Benefits over Existing Technology
IPv6 Potential: Pervasive Collaborative Computing

Why is IPv6 Important?

The path forward to a ubiquitously connected society is underway, and IPv6 will play a leading part. Key drivers along this path—and drivers for IPv6 growth—were described by Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, in a business overview mail to employees in the summer of 2004:

  • PC Market Growth: It took more than 20 years to grow the worldwide base of PC users to more than 600 million. By 2010, the market is expected that to grow to 1 billion, due to opportunities in emerging markets, and new scenarios and form factors are expected to stimulate demand.

  • Non-PC Consumer Electronics: The opportunity is virtually unlimited to integrate the richness and intelligence of the PC world with everyday devices such as mobile phones, handheld devices, home entertainment, and TV.

  • Entertainment: There is significant growth opportunity in delivering compelling entertainment experiences in key scenarios such as music, TV, movies, photos, and games.

  • Communications: Broadband and wireless technology is increasing the amount of time people spend online. Younger and savvier Net users want communications experiences to build their social network on any device. Professionals and information workers need integrated, secure functionality that helps them manage their personal and professional lives: personalized e-mail, instant messaging (IM), contact management, shared calendars, and relationship management.

IPv6 Benefits over Existing Technology

  • Large Address Space

    In the late 1970s when the IPv4 address space was designed, it was unimaginable that it could be exhausted. However, due to changes in technology and an allocation practice that did not anticipate the recent explosion of devices on the Internet, the IPv4 address space was consumed to the point that by 1992 it was clear a replacement would be necessary. The size of an address in IPv6 is 128 bits, which allows for 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 (3.4x1038) possible IP addresses.

  • Better Security

    Private communication over a public medium like the Internet requires secured services that protect the data from being viewed or modified while in transit. Although an IPv4–based standard exists for providing security for data packets (known as Internet Protocol security or IPSec), this standard is only optional, and proprietary solutions are prevalent. In IPv6, IPSec support is a protocol requirement. This requirement provides a standards–based solution for network security needs for devices, applications and services, and promotes interoperability between different IPv6 implementations.

  • Mobility

    Mobile IPv6 allows an IPv6 node to be mobile—to arbitrarily change its location on an IPv6 network–and still maintain existing connections. When an IPv6 node changes its location, it might also change its link. When an IPv6 node changes its link, its IPv6 address might also change in order to maintain connectivity. With Mobile IPv6, the mobile node is always reachable through one permanent address. A connection is established with a specific permanent address assigned to the mobile node and remains connected no matter how many times the mobile node changes locations and addresses.

  • Integrated Quality of Service (QoS)

    New fields in the IPv6 header define how traffic is handled and identified. Traffic identification using a Flow Label field in the IPv6 header allows routers to identify and provide special handling for packets belonging to a flow, a series of packets between a source and destination. Because the traffic is identified in the IPv6 header, support for QoS is part and parcel of the protocol of IPv6.

IPv6 Potential: Pervasive Collaborative Computing

Promote Pervasive Computing

Pervasive Collaborative Computing is about enabling new computing and communication experiences in a world marked by a proliferation of new devices and millions of interested users. There are more and more ways and devices available that connect to the Internet. With the introduction and proliferation of IEEE 802.11 wireless LAN and other wireless technologies, Internet connectivity is almost ubiquitous. This increased connectivity has been embraced with new engaging experiences. Online collaboration, communication, file sharing, and gaming are gaining public attention.


Development and deployment of the IPv6 protocol–based products are currently taking place. Working IPv6 networks and devices are not future thought exercises and will be steadily increasing as the IT industry, consumers, and businesses migrate from IPv4 to IPv6. The deployment of IPv6 will enable worldwide IP–based devices to seamlessly communicate and interoperate in a much more efficient manner