Book Review: IPv6 Essentials, 2nd Edition, by Silvia Hagen

Posted by tuxchick2 on Oct 2, 2006 3:24 PM EDT; By Carla Schroder
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IPv6 Essentials, 2nd edition is a well-written, clear, up-to-date guide to understanding IPv6 in-depth. The book explains how it all works to a very practical depth, so that the reader will be well-prepared to begin implementation.

IPv6 is halfway here, so network administrators need to learn their way around it whether they want to or not. Adoption has been slower in the United States because we possess the lion's share of IPv4 addresses, but even so, someday IPv4 is going away for good. And, there is more to it than just increasing the pool of available addresses. IPv6 has enough improvements over IPv4 to make it worth the change even if we weren't running out of IPV4 addresses, such as built-in IPSec, simplified routing and administration, and scalability that IPv4 simply can't support. We're moving into gigabyte and multi-gigabyte backbones, and high-demand real-time services like voice-over-IP and streaming audio and video that require sophisticated QoS (quality of service) and bandwidth prioritization. IPv6 can handle these; IPv4 can't.

IPv6 Essentials, 2nd edition, by Silvia Hagen, released in May 2006, is a well-written, clear, up-to-date guide to understanding IPv6 in-depth. This is a real accomplishment, because computer networking protocols are completely abstract, and translating all of these abstractions into understandable language is a noteworthy feat. The book explains how it all works to a very practical depth, so that the reader will be well-prepared to begin implementation.

What it does not cover is the specifics of configuring network devices, such as routers, switches, and interface cards, and this is not a flaw, because those things are platform- and vendor-dependent. Having a solid understanding of the protocol itself is more important, and something that is sadly lacking even in today's IPv4 world. The Internet would be a better place if more network admins would take the time to learn IP fundamentals.

Ms. Hagen does a nice job of covering the following topics:

  • Strengths and advantages, such as auto-configuration, and good-bye to NAT
  • The structure of the protocol itself, including header format
  • Improved security
  • Real genuine QoS
  • Simplified routing
  • Co-existence with IPv4
  • Painless mobile networking
  • Addressing
Addressing is one of the scariest parts. When you're used to slinging around something like with ease, coming eye-to-eye with something like this is a bit disconcerting:


But fear not, for Ms. Hagen dissects IPv6 addresses clearly and in detail, showing that they have a logical, consistent, understandable structure. For example, the first quad (3ffe) tells you that this is a address, so it is already obsolete because the 6bone closed down in June 2006. Other prefixes tell you if it is a private address, link-local, site-local, and so on. The book lays this all out in tables, and explains what each one is for.

How would you like to retire your DHCP servers permanently? No problem. IPv6 autoconfigures hosts all by itself, or you may exercise as much control as you like. Ms. Hagen explains the various options- link-local, site-local, stateful, stateless, neighbor discovery, and so forth, and what you can do with them. For example, with IPv6 you can whip up an ad-hoc LAN with hardly any effort, and without needing special servers or client software.

Security is built-in to IPv6, instead of bolted-on as it is for IPv4. However, IPSec (IP Security) is still largely untested and unproven on a number of levels, so the book discusses both the pros and cons.

The book covers the problems, hassles, and compromises that come with using NAT (network address translation). We're used to it now, but sometime down the road we're going to look back and think "Wow, that was one big fat pain. Good thing it's gone."

The chapter on Mobile IPv6 is almost worth the price of the book by itself. IPv6 supports both wired and wireless mobile users in an elegant, hassle-free way. Say good-bye to setting up multiple profiles, or hassling with scripts. Roaming users can keep the same IP as they travel - across different networks, wired to wireless- anywhere they go. This little bit of magic occurs because IPv6 assigns them multiple IPs. One is the home address, which is permanent. A second address is the care-of address, which changes as the user moves around. Of course there is a lot more to it that just having multiple addresses, and like everything else in this book, Ms. Hagen explains how it works clearly and understandably.

The book is abundantly illustrated in the usual quality O'Reilly fashion, and the illustrations are invaluable for understanding the material.

We're at the stage where IPv6 support is pretty much universal- you can count on both network hardware and software supporting it. So the network administrator only needs to focus on learning the ins and outs of implementation. I recommend IPv6 Essentials as an essential reference, and a great starting point for mastering IPv6.

IPv6 Essentials, Second Edition By Silvia Hagen

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
yes, gigabyte is wrong tuxchick2 0 1,739 Oct 2, 2006 3:27 PM

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