Book Review: IPv6 Essentials

By Graham K. Rogers

With the current political situation, there is some change in the way the newspapers seem to be working. The print edition of the Bangkok Post arrived a little late today, minus the Outlook (Leisure) and Database (IT) sections. The Post website re-appeared just after 10 am (Thai time) although it is slow and the Database pages are now loading, but slowly.

IPv6 EssentialsIn Thailand, along with the rest of the world, we are experiencing an evolution in communications. Telephone numbers are running out and are currently being changed to include an extra digit. Worldwide, the same is happening for Internet Protocol (IP) numbers: the numbers that we use to make connections on the Internet (e.g. These numbers are known as IPv4; and since the early 90s there has been development on the next generation of such numbers: IPv6.

Silvia Hagen's IPv6 Essentials is just that: one of those books that anyone who has anything to do with the organisation or implementation of networks, cannot do without. It is recommended, particularly for network personnel, although the Preface points out that certain chapters will also be of interest to others responsible for infrastructure. The complex nature of the move to IPv6 means that the preparations must be made carefully and over the long term.

She makes the point that (unlike our telephone numbers) there will be no sudden switch but a gradual change: one that has already started in some countries. As I discovered in the book, Thailand does have a committee that is examining the new protocols. A committee meeting was scheduled for 19 September.

The IPv6 numbers look completely different (3FFE:4016:3FFC::/48 for example is the number of TT&T) and so much preparation will be needed.

Owing to the nature of the subject, there are no section headings and Ms Hagen has simply split this into twelve chapters after a preface: Why IPv6; The Structure of the IPv6 Protocol; IPv6 Addressing; ICMPv6; Security with IPv6; Quality of Service; Networking Aspects; Rerouting Protocols; Upper Layer Protocols; Interoperability; Mobile IPv6 (such as mobile phones and PDAs); ; and Get Your Hands Dirty. There are also Appendices and the usual excellent O'Reilly style Index.

At the end of each chapter is a list of each "Request for Comments" (RFC) that is used in the chapter, while some chapters also have a list of drafts used. A complete list of RFCs is found in Apppendix A. Appendix B cointains a comprehensive list of resources (technical in nature), while in Appendix C we find a list of titles for recommended reading.

Chapter 4 discusses ICMPv6: Internet Control Message Protocol. One notable aspect of this that the ordinary user may grasp is that, while IPv4 uses DHCP, IPv6 is self-configuring.

The chapter on Security, starts with the interesting statement, "The developers of IPv4 did not rack their brains about security". (Rack and Wrack are interchangable -- and I put this in after someone, who did not check a dictionary, took me to task over the plural of mouse.) The beginnings of the Internet were all about trust among a small group of intellectuals sharing information; but now we know that trust was misplaced, or at least diminished as the user-base grew. IPv6 is not inherently more secure, but there are mandatory parts that help with security.

The chapter on Networking Aspects, while explaining how IPv6 integrates with each, has an interesting sub-section on network topologies (e.g Ethernet, Point-to-Point), so has a wider use as a source of general information.

Chapter 10 on Interoperability looks in part at the transition and integration of IPv6 with IPv4 and in this section are a number of of case studies: practical looks, of considerable value, to show where implementation has gone right and (as important) the pitfalls.

The interesting title of Chapter 12, Getting Your Hands Dirty, is about finding out by doing. It has a look at the status quo of operating systems (among other things) and gives an assessment of the state of readiness of common operating systems. Linux and OS X work out of the box (with OS X the default is automatic configuration). Windows XP, with SP 2 will work and a full implementation is expected with Vista whenever it arrives.

This book is generously illustrated with clear diagrams and plenty of screen shots which makes the ideas encapsulated in the text easier to grasp. Tables, too, listing spefications or other information are similarly clear.

Silvia Hagen has completed a complex writing task with the number of terms that need to be defined and explained; but using an expert approach she controls the data ably: a good example of how sophisticated ideas can be forced into submission and made available to the target audience. This is not an easy read, but the target is not all internet users: it is aimed mainly at network engineers. It could also be useful to students grappling with such ideas and those who may teach them.

A further note on iClock that I looked at a couple of weeks ago. Mark Fleming who wrote the application has been in touch and, following some of the suggestions I made, he has added several links to Asian markets (including the SET) as well as a larger selection of world exchanges.

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