IPv6 Neighbor Discovery Protocol

One of the differences between IPv4 and IPv6 is that we don’t use ARP (Address Resolution Protocol) anymore. ND (Neighbor Discovery Protocol) will replace the functionality of ARP. In this lesson we’ll take a look how ND works.

ND uses ICMP and solicited node multicast addresses to discover the layer 2 address of other IPv6 hosts the same network (local link). It uses two messages to accomplish this:

  • Neighbor solicitation message
  • Neighbor advertisement message

Let’s take closer look at these two messages.

IPv6 Neighbor Solicitation Message

The neighbor solicitation message is used primarily to find the layer two address of another IPv6 address on the local link, it’s also used for DAD (Duplicated Address Detection). In this packet the source address will be the source address of the host that is sending the neighbor solicitation, the destination address will be the solicited node multicast address of the remote host. This message also includes the layer two address of the host that is sending it. In the ICMP header of this packet you will find a type value of 135.

IPv6 Neighbor Solicitation Message

Using solicited node multicast addresses as the destination is far more efficient than IPv4’s ARP requests that are broadcasted to all hosts.

Every IPV6 device will compute a solicited node multicast address by taking the multicast group address (FF02::1:FF /104) and adding the last 6 hexadecimal characters from its IPv6 address. It will then join this multicast group address and “listens” to it.

When one host wants to find the layer two address of another host, it will send the neighbor solicitation to the remote host’s solicited node multicast address.It can calculate the solicited node multicast address of the remote host since it knows about the multicast group address and it knows the IPv6 address that it wants to reach.

The result will be that only the remote host will receive the neighbor solicitation. That’s far more efficient than a broadcast that is received by everyone…

Neighbor solicitation messages are also used to check if a remote host is reachable. In this case, the destination address will be the unicast address of the remote host.

IPv6 Neighbor Advertisement Message

Once the remote host receives the neighbor solicitation it will reply with the neighbor advertisement message. The source address is the IPv6 address of the host and the destination address is the IPv6 address of the remote host that sent the neighbor solicitation. The most important part is that this message includes the layer two address of the host. The neighbor advertisement message uses type 136 in the ICMPv6 packet header.

IPv6 Neighbor Advertisement Message

Once R1 receives the neighbor advertisement, these two IPv6 hosts will be able to communicate with each other.

Neighbor advertisement messages are also used when the layer two address of a host changes. When this message is sent, the destination address will be the all-nodes multicast address.

Configuration

Now you have an idea how IPv6 neighbor discovery works. Let’s see what it looks like on some real devices. I’ll also show you some wireshark captures. I will use these two routers for this demonstration:

R1 R2 no ip addresses

First we will configure some IPv6 addresses on our routers:

R1 & R2
(config)#interface FastEthernet 0/0
(config-if)#ipv6 enable

Using ipv6 enable is enough to generate some link local addresses which is all we need for this exercise. Here are the IPv6 addresses that the routers created:

R1#show ipv6 interface FastEthernet 0/0 | include FE80
  IPv6 is enabled, link-local address is FE80::C001:2FF:FE40:0 [TEN]
R2#show ipv6 interface FastEthernet 0/0 | include FE80
  IPv6 is enabled, link-local address is FE80::C002:3FF:FEE4:0 [TEN]

To see the neighbor discovery in action I will enable a debug on both routers:

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Forum Replies

  1. hi,
    how does r1 knows the exact address of r2, since each router adds a different 6 hex characters?
    I mean can you explain to me how do routers calculate that?

    quote “It can calculate the solicited node multicast address of the remote host since it knows about the multicast group address and it knows the IPv6 address that it wants to reach.”

    thanks

  2. Hi Ghaith,

    We need “something” that wants to send some data. This could be a ping like I did or an application that wants to reach some server. In my example, I sent a ping to FE80::C002:3FF:FEE4:0.

    The solicited node multicast group address starts with FF02::1:FF /104. We take this address and the last 6 hexadecimal characters of the address I’m trying to reach, our complete address will be ff02::1:ffe4:0 (you can see this in the wireshark capture).

    R2 is the only device that will be listening to this multicast group address. It will receive the neighbor solic

    ... Continue reading in our forum

  3. oh ya ya, my bad :slight_smile: Thaaaaaank you very much

  4. hi rene
    I can’t understand howwww R1 find solicited multicast address of R2 ?
    R1 and R2 have own solicited multicast address how R1 find R2 address?>>>> Before any data send from R2 to R1???

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