System Administration Guide: IP Services

Chapter 3 Introducing IPv6 (Overview)

This chapter presents an overview of the Oracle Solaris Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) implementation. This implementation includes the associated daemon and utilities that support the IPv6 address space.

IPv6 and IPv4 addresses coexist in the Oracle Solaris networking environment. Systems that are configured with IPv6 addresses retain their IPv4 addresses, if these addresses already exist. Operations that involve IPv6 addresses do not adversely affect IPv4 operations, and vice versa.

The following major topics are discussed:

For more detailed information about IPv6, consult the following chapters.

Major Features of IPv6

The defining feature of IPv6 is increased address space in comparison to IPv4. IPv6 also improves Internet capabilities in numerous areas, as outlined in this section.

Expanded Addressing

IP address size increases from 32 bits in IPv4 to 128 bits in IPv6, to support more levels of addressing hierarchy. In addition, IPv6 provides many more addressable IPv6 systems. For more information, see IPv6 Addressing Overview.

Address Autoconfiguration and Neighbor Discovery

The IPv6 Neighbor Discovery (ND) protocol facilitates the autoconfiguration of IPv6 addresses. Autoconfiguration is the ability of an IPv6 host to automatically generate its own IPv6 address, which makes address administration easier and less time-consuming. For more information, see IPv6 Address Autoconfiguration.

The Neighbor Discovery protocol corresponds to a combination of these IPv4 protocols: Address Resolution Protocol (ARP), Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP), Router Discovery (RDISC), and ICMP Redirect. IPv6 routers use Neighbor Discovery to advertise the IPv6 site prefix. IPv6 hosts use Neighbor Discovery for various purposes, which include soliciting the prefix from an IPv6 router. For more information, see IPv6 Neighbor Discovery Protocol Overview.

Header Format Simplification

The IPv6 header format either drops or makes optional certain IPv4 header fields. This change keeps the bandwidth cost of the IPv6 header as low as possible, despite the increased address size. Even though IPv6 addresses are four times longer than IPv4 addresses, the IPv6 header is only twice the size of the IPv4 header.

Improved Support for IP Header Options

Changes in the way IP header options are encoded allow for more efficient forwarding. Also, IPv6 options have less stringent limits on their length. The changes provide greater flexibility for introducing new options in the future.

Application Support for IPv6 Addressing

Many critical Oracle Solaris network services recognize and support IPv6 addresses, for example:

Additional IPv6 Resources

In addition to this Part, you can obtain information about IPv6 from the sources that are listed in the following sections.

IPv6 Requests for Comments and Internet Drafts

Many RFCs are available regarding IPv6. The following table lists the major IPv6 articles and their Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) web locations as of this writing.

Table 3–1 IPv6–Related RFCs and Internet Drafts

RFC or Internet Draft 



RFC 2461, Neighbor Discovery for IP Version 6 (IPv6)

Describes the features and functions of IPv6 Neighbor Discovery protocol$number=2461

RFC 3306, Unicast—Prefix—Based IPv6 Multicast Addresses

Describes the format and types of IPv6 multicast addresses

RFC 3484: Default Address Selection for Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6)

Describes the algorithms used in IPv6 default address selection

RFC 3513, Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) Addressing Architecture

Contains complete details about the types of IPv6 addresses and includes many examples

RFC 3587, IPv6 Global Unicast Address Format

Defines the standard format for IPv6 unicast addresses

Web Sites

The following web sites provide useful information about IPv6.

Table 3–2 IPv6–Related Web Sites

Web Site 



IPv6 Forum 

Links to IPv6–related presentations, events, classes, and implementations worldwide are available from this society's web site

Internet Educational Task Force IPv6 Working Group 

Links to all relevant IPv6 RFCs and Internet Drafts are on the home page of this IETF working group

IPv6 Network Overview

This section introduces terms that are fundamental to the IPv6 network topology. The following figure shows the basic parts of an IPv6 network.

Figure 3–1 Basic Components of an IPv6 Network

The following text describes the figure.

The figure depicts an IPv6 network and its connection to an ISP. The internal network consists of Links 1, 2, 3, and 4. Each link is populated by hosts and terminated by a router. Link 4, which is the network's DMZ, is terminated on one end by the boundary router. The boundary router runs an IPv6 tunnel to an ISP, which provides Internet connectivity for the network. Links 2 and 3 are administered as Subnet 8a. Subnet 8b consists only of systems on Link 1. Subnet 8c is contiguous with the DMZ on Link 4.

As illustrated in Figure 3–1, an IPv6 network has essentially the same components as an IPv4 network. However, IPv6 terminology differs slightly from IPv4 terminology. Here is a list of familiar terms for network components as they are used in an IPv6 context.


Any system with an IPv6 address and interface that is configured for IPv6 support. This generic term applies to both hosts and routers.

IPv6 router

A node that forwards IPv6 packets. At least one of the router's interfaces must be configured for IPv6 support. An IPv6 router can also advertise the registered IPv6 site prefix for the enterprise over the internal network.

IPv6 host

A node with an IPv6 address. An IPv6 host can have more than one interface that is configured for IPv6 support. As in IPv4, IPv6 hosts do not forward packets.


A single, contiguous network medium that is bounded on either end by a router.


An IPv6 node that is on the same link as the local node.

IPv6 subnet

The administrative segment of an IPv6 network. Components of an IPv6 subnet can directly correspond to all nodes on a link, as in IPv4. Nodes on a link can be administered in separate subnets, if required. Additionally, IPv6 does support multilink subnets, where nodes on more than one link can be components of a single subnet. Links 2 and 3 in Figure 3–1 are components of multilink Subnet 8a.

IPv6 tunnel

A tunnel that provides a virtual point-to-point path between an IPv6 node and another IPv6 node endpoint. IPv6 supports manually configurable tunnels and automatic 6to4 tunnels.

boundary router

The router at the edge of a network that provides one end of the IPv6 tunnel to an endpoint outside the local network. This router must have at least one IPv6 interface to the internal network. For the external network, the router can have an IPv6 interface or an IPv4 interface.

IPv6 Addressing Overview

IPv6 addresses are assigned to interfaces, rather than to nodes, in recognition that a node can have more than one interface. Moreover, you can assign more than one IPv6 address to an interface.

Note –

For complete technical information about the IPv6 address format, go to RFC 2374, IPv6 Global Unicast Address Format

IPv6 defines three address types:


Identifies an interface of an individual node.


Identifies a group of interfaces, usually on different nodes. Packets that are sent to the multicast address go to all members of the multicast group.


Identifies a group of interfaces, usually on different nodes. Packets that are sent to the anycast address go to the anycast group member node that is physically closest to the sender.

Parts of the IPv6 Address

An IPv6 address is 128 bits in length and consists of eight, 16-bit fields, with each field bounded by a colon. Each field must contain a hexadecimal number, in contrast to the dotted-decimal notation of IPv4 addresses. In the next figure, the x's represent hexadecimal numbers.

Figure 3–2 Basic IPv6 Address Format

The figure shows the three parts of an IPv6 address,
which are described in the next text.

The leftmost three fields (48 bits) contain the site prefix. The prefix describes the public topology that is usually allocated to your site by an ISP or Regional Internet Registry (RIR).

The next field is the 16-bit subnet ID, which you (or another administrator) allocate for your site. The subnet ID describes the private topology, also known as the site topology, because it is internal to your site.

The rightmost four fields (64 bits) contain the interface ID, also referred to as a token. The interface ID is either automatically configured from the interface's MAC address or manually configured in EUI-64 format.

Consider again the address in Figure 3–2:


This example shows all 128 bits of an IPv6 address. The first 48 bits, 2001:0db8:3c4d, contain the site prefix, representing the public topology. The next 16 bits, 0015, contain the subnet ID, representing the private topology for the site. The lower order, rightmost 64 bits, 0000:0000:1a2f:1a2b, contain the interface ID.

Abbreviating IPv6 Addresses

Most IPv6 addresses do not occupy all of their possible 128 bits. This condition results in fields that are padded with zeros or contain only zeros.

The IPv6 addressing architecture allows you use the two-colon (::) notation to represent contiguous 16-bit fields of zeros. For example, you might abbreviate the IPv6 address in Figure 3–2 by replacing the two contiguous fields of zeros in the interface ID with two colons. The resulting address is 2001:0db8:3c4d:0015::1a2f:1a2b. Other fields of zeros can be represented as a single 0. You can also omit any leading zeros in a field, such as changing 0db8 to db8.

So the address 2001:0db8:3c4d:0015:0000:0000:1a2f:1a2b can be abbreviated as 2001:db8:3c4d:15::1a2f:1a2b.

You can use the two colon notation to replace any contiguous fields of all zeros in the IPv6 address. For example, the IPv6 address 2001:0db8:3c4d:0015:0000:d234::3eee:0000 can be collapsed into 2001:db8:3c4d:15:0:d234:3eee::.

Prefixes in IPv6

The leftmost fields of the IPv6 address contain the prefix, which is used for routing IPv6 packets. IPv6 prefixes have the following format:

prefix/length in bits

Prefix length is stated in classless inter-domain routing (CIDR) notation. CIDR notation is a slash at the end of the address that is followed by the prefix length in bits. For information on CIDR format IP addresses, refer to Designing Your CIDR IPv4 Addressing Scheme.

The site prefix of an IPv6 address occupies up to 48 of the leftmost bits of the IPv6 address. For example, the site prefix of the IPv6 address 2001:db8:3c4d:0015:0000:0000:1a2f:1a2b/48 is contained in the leftmost 48 bits, 2001:db8:3c4d. You use the following representation, with zeros compressed, to represent this prefix:


Note –

The prefix 2001:db8::/32 is a special IPv6 prefix that is used specifically for documentation examples.

You can also specify a subnet prefix, which defines the internal topology of the network to a router. The example IPv6 address has the following subnet prefix.


The subnet prefix always contains 64 bits. These bits include 48 bits for the site prefix, in addition to 16 bits for the subnet ID.

The following prefixes have been reserved for special use:


Indicates that a 6to4 routing prefix follows.


Indicates that a link-local address follows.


Indicates that a multicast address follows.

Unicast Addresses

IPv6 includes two different unicast address assignments:

The type of unicast address is determined by the leftmost (high order) contiguous bits in the address, which contain the prefix.

The unicast address format is organized in the following hierarchy:

Global Unicast Address

The global unicast address is globally unique in the Internet. The example IPv6 address that is shown in Prefixes in IPv6 is a global unicast address. The next figure shows the scope of the global unicast address, as compared to the parts of the IPv6 address.

Figure 3–3 Parts of the Global Unicast Address

The figure divides a unicast address into its public
topology, the site prefix and its site topology, the subnet ID, and interface

Public Topology

The site prefix defines the public topology of your network to a router. You obtain the site prefix for your enterprise from an ISP or Regional Internet Registry (RIR).

Site Topology and IPv6 Subnets

IN IPv6, the subnet ID defines an administrative subnet of the network and is up to 16 bits in length. You assign a subnet ID as part of IPv6 network configuration. The subnet prefix defines the site topology to a router by specifying the specific link to which the subnet has been assigned.

IPv6 subnets are conceptually the same as IPv4 subnets, in that each subnet is usually associated with a single hardware link. However, IPv6 subnet IDs are expressed in hexadecimal notation, rather than in dotted decimal notation.

Interface ID

The interface ID identifies an interface of a particular node. An interface ID must be unique within the subnet. IPv6 hosts can use the Neighbor Discovery protocol to automatically generate their own interface IDs. Neighbor Discovery automatically generates the interface ID, based on the MAC or EUI-64 address of the host's interface. You can also manually assign interface IDs, which is recommended for IPv6 routers and IPv6-enabled servers. For instructions on how to create a manual EUI-64 address, refer to RFC 3513 Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) Addressing Architecture.

Transitional Global Unicast Addresses

For transition purposes, the IPv6 protocol includes the ability to embed an IPv4 address within an IPv6 address. This type of IPv4 address facilitates the tunneling of IPv6 packets over existing IPv4 networks. One example of a transitional global unicast address is the 6to4 address. For more information on 6to4 addressing, refer to 6to4 Automatic Tunnels.

Link-Local Unicast Address

The link-local unicast address can be used only on the local network link. Link-local addresses are not valid nor recognized outside the enterprise. The following example shows the format of the link-local address.

Example 3–1 Parts of the Link-Local Unicast Address

The figure illustrates the format of an IPv6 link local
address, which is described in the next context.

A link-local prefix has the following format:


The following is an example of a link-local address:



Hexadecimal representation of the 10-bit binary prefix 1111111010. This prefix identifies the type of IPv6 address as link local.


Hexadecimal address of the interface, which is usually derived from the 48-bit MAC address.

When you enable IPv6 during Oracle Solaris installation, the lowest numbered interface on the local machine is configured with a link-local address. Each interface requires at least one link-local address to identify the node to other nodes on the local link. Therefore, you need to manually configure link-local addresses for additional interfaces of a node. After configuration, the node uses its link-local addresses for automatic address configuration and neighbor discovery.

Multicast Addresses

IPv6 supports the use of multicast addresses. The multicast address identifies a multicast group, which is a group of interfaces, usually on different nodes. An interface can belong to any number of multicast groups. If the first 16 bits of an IPv6 address is ff00n, the address is a multicast address.

Multicast addresses are used for sending information or services to all interfaces that are defined as members of the multicast group. For example, one use of multicast addresses is to communicate with all IPv6 nodes on the local link.

When an interface's IPv6 unicast address is created, the kernel automatically makes the interface a member of certain multicast groups. For example, the kernel makes each node a member of the Solicited Node multicast group, which is used by the Neighbor Discovery protocol to detect reachability. The kernel also automatically makes a node a member of the All-Nodes or All Routers multicast groups.

For detailed information about multicast addresses, refer to IPv6 Multicast Addresses in Depth. For technical information, see RFC 3306, Unicast-Prefix-based IPv6 Multicast Addresses, which explains the multicast address format. For more information about the proper use of multicast addresses and groups, RFC 3307, Allocation Guidelines for IPv6 Multicast Addresses.

Anycast Addresses and Groups

IPv6 anycast addresses identify a group of interfaces on different IPv6 nodes. Each group of interfaces is known as an anycast group. When a packet is sent to the anycast address, the anycast group member that is physically closest to the sender receives the packet.

Note –

The Oracle Solaris implementation of IPv6 does not support the creation of anycast addresses and groups. However, Oracle Solaris IPv6 nodes can send packets to anycast addresses. For more information, see Considerations for Tunnels to a 6to4 Relay Router.

IPv6 Neighbor Discovery Protocol Overview

IPv6 introduces the Neighbor Discovery protocol, which uses messaging as the means to handle the interaction between neighbor nodes. Neighbor nodes are IPv6 nodes that are on the same link. For example, by issuing neighbor discovery-related messages, a node can learn a neighbor's link-local address. Neighbor Discovery controls the following major activities on the IPv6 local link:

Neighbor Discovery uses the following ICMP message types for communication among nodes on a link:

For detailed information on Neighbor Discovery messages and other Neighbor Discovery protocol topics, refer to IPv6 Neighbor Discovery Protocol. For technical information on Neighbor Discovery, see RFC 2461, Neighbor Discovery for IP Version 6 (IPv6).

IPv6 Address Autoconfiguration

A major feature of IPv6 is a host's ability to autoconfigure an interface. Through Neighbor Discovery, the host locates an IPv6 router on the local link and requests a site prefix. The host does the following, as part of the autoconfiguration process:

Stateless Autoconfiguration Overview

Stateless autoconfiguration requires no manual configuration of hosts, minimal (if any) configuration of routers, and no additional servers. The stateless mechanism enables a host to generate its own addresses. The stateless mechanism uses local information as well as nonlocal information that is advertised by routers to generate the addresses.

You can implement temporary addresses for an interface, which are also autoconfigured. You enable a temporary address token for one or more interfaces on a host. However, unlike standard, autoconfigured IPv6 addresses, a temporary address consists of the site prefix and a randomly generated 64 bit number. This random number becomes the interface ID portion of the IPv6 address. A link-local address is not generated with the temporary address as the interface ID.

Routers advertise all prefixes that have been assigned on the link. IPv6 hosts use Neighbor Discovery to obtain a subnet prefix from a local router. Hosts automatically create IPv6 addresses by combining the subnet prefix with an interface ID that is generated from an interface's MAC address. In the absence of routers, a host can generate only link-local addresses. Link-local addresses can only be used for communication with nodes on the same link.

Note –

Do not use stateless autoconfiguration to create the IPv6 addresses of servers. Hosts automatically generate interface IDs that are based on hardware-specific information during autoconfiguration. The current interface ID could become invalid if the existing interface is swapped for a new interface.

Overview of IPv6 Tunnels

For most enterprises, the introduction of IPv6 to an existing IPv4 network must occur on a gradual, step-by-step basis. The Oracle Solaris dual-stack network environment supports both IPv4 and IPv6 functionality. Because most networks use the IPv4 protocol, IPv6 networks currently require a way to communicate outside their borders. IPv6 networks use tunnels for this purpose.

In most IPv6 tunneling scenarios, the outbound IPv6 packet is encapsulated inside an IPv4 packet. The boundary router of the IPv6 network sets up a point-to-point tunnel over various IPv4 networks to the boundary router of the destination IPv6 network. The packet travels over the tunnel to the destination network's boundary router, which decapsulates the packet. Then, the router forwards the separate IPv6 packet to the destination node.

The Oracle Solaris IPv6 implementation supports the following tunneling scenarios:

For detailed information about IPv6 tunnels, refer to IPv6 Tunnels. For information about IPv4- to-IPv4 tunnels and VPN, refer to Virtual Private Networks and IPsec.