Back to Basics: Internet, next version, IPv6

Industry shouldn’t panic about the next version of the Internet Protocol, version 6 (IPv6), the transition from IPv4, or the recent exhaustion of the IPv4 address pool. Take advantage of opportunities, while you can.


Ethernet connector, Control Engineering artAlthough Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) addresses “ran out” in February, manufacturers and other users shouldn’t worry about the transition to the next version, IPv6, experts explained. In fact, the adoption of IPv6 by industrial automation vendors seems likely to create new opportunities for end users as IPv6 migrates into automation applications.

Paul Brooks, ODVA strategic market planning task force, Rockwell Automation, at ODVA 2011 Industry Conference, Control Engineering photo by Mark T. HoskeThe last five blocks of addresses were assigned Feb. 3, 2011, according to Brian Batke, chair, ODVA EtherNet/IP Systems Architecture SIG (also principal engineer at ODVA member Rockwell Automation), and Paul Brooks, participant in ODVA activities including its strategic market planning task force (also manager of business development for ODVA member Rockwell Automation). Batke and Brooks were among speakers at the ODVA 2011 Industry Conference, in March, in Litchfield Park, Arizona.

They explained:

  • There’s no ignoring IPv6; architecture requirements must be considered with any new communications infrastructure installation.
  • With the expanding Internet of Things (IOT), giving network connections to mobile and stationary devices and systems in manufacturing, buildings, and enterprise, IPv6 was needed to support trillions of IP addresses.
  • Regional registries of assigned addresses are expected to be completed by 2012.
  • To support and help promote transition to IPv6, the U.S. government has mandated IPv6 use by end of 2011, including support on all U.S. government public servers.
  • No EtherNet/IP device is “USGv6-1.0-capable” yet, (and there are other Ethernet infrastructure devices that do support IPv6 used within EtherNet/IP systems).
  • Much of the IPv6 discussion sounds like Y2K, which resulted in panic spending, which in turn, arguably was enough to prevent the many predicted catastrophes.
  • Network address translation takes the form of 192.168.1.x<>10.10.y.y<>Internet (an example of Local<>Private<>Public NAT (national address translation) common in manufacturing applications).
  • IPv6 Internet is available to IPv4 clients through these NAT techniques.
  • Most manufacturers and large facilities use just a few public addresses externally.
  • IPv4 and IPv6 can coexist on the Internet and intranets.
  • Microsoft Windows XP doesn’t support IPv6, though there is mapping technology to allow home nodes to continue to access the Internet.
  • New U.S. government servers must have an IPv6 address.
  • An IPv6 client can interface to an IPv4 server; connecting an IPv4 client and IPv6 server is complex to support.
  • Mechanisms now available will support a slow and smooth migration.
  • New applications, such as the smart grid, and new devices, such as 4G mobile telephony, have IPv6 addresses.
  • New SCADA applications will need to be IPv6; hybrid applications at outstations likely would be too costly.
  • On device level rings, PC clients eventually will use IPv6 information.
  • On dual stack devices, IPv6 will be used going up, and IPv4 going down in the short term.
  • In IPv6, security is mandatory, not optional.
  • New vendors adopting IPv6 architectures will initially have a competitive advantage over IPv4 laggards.
  • Device provisioning can be improved with IPv6.

- Mark T. Hoske, Content Manager, Control Engineering,

Editor’s note: What happened to IPv5? According to several sources, Internet Stream protocol, never adopted as a standard, was referred to by some as IPv5, so the next-generation Internet Protocol adopted the IPv6 name. 

Also see: Industrial Ethernet: Room for more, IPv6.

For more from ODVA, see: “IPv6 for EtherNet/IP: Is the Sky Falling, or Just an Acorn?” an ODVA technical paper by Brian Batke and Paul Brooks

See other ODVA news links, below, for more from Control Engineering on:

  • Think Again: Improving networking and energy use
  • Bosch Rexroth commits to ODVA, EtherNet/IP advancements
  • 10 tips for deploying EtherNet/IP, the ODVA Ethernet protocol
  • ODVA collaborates to manage industrial energy data
  • ODVA forms rail transport special interest group

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