New Urgency to Move to IPv6 as Last Block of IPv4 Addresses are Allocated

With the allocation of the last block of IPv4 addresses by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) , the move to IPv6 has become much more urgent. On January 31st, IANA assigned two large blocks of IPv4 addresses to the Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre, activating a rule under which the agency will give out the last of its IPv4 addresses. The rule states that when only five large blocks of IP addresses remain, one will be handed out to each of the world’s five regional Internet registries.

With the latest allocation to APNIC, the number of remaining IP address blocks is down to five. IANA is expected to assign the remaining blocks within a matter of days. After that, the regional bodies will have no higher source of addresses to turn to when they have assigned the addresses they hold. An IANA official said last week that he believes ISPs are accelerating their requests for addresses as the supply nears its end.

IPv4’s 32 bit address space allows for only about 4.3 billion unique Internet addresses, which client and web servers use to connect over the Internet by routing data to the correct destination. The remaining IPv4 addresses have been dwindling over the past few years. While the last block of IPv4 addresses have been allocated to regional registries, they do still have some to distribute. And there are millions of unused IPv4 addresses. But those unused IPv4 addresses will likely be allocated very soon.

IPv4 address exhaustion will likely impact Asia first. With 24 million IP addresses used by APNIC in January 2011, and only around 50 million addresses left in its pool, exhaustion is expected to occur in the next few months. Europe will be next (probably towards the end of 2011), and North America will follow (in 2012).

Hence, it’s now more important than ever for ISPs to transition from IPv4 to IPv6 addresses. IPv6 has a 128-bit address space, which could be used to assign an almost unlimited number of addresses. To help make the IPv6 migration easier, many major technology companies – including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo – will be participating in World IPv6 Day later this year, a test to make sure their systems are ready to make the switch.

Many pundits say that making the switch won’t be easy for ISPs. Even though IPv6 was standardized more than a decade ago, there has been no real incentive to upgrade networks’ addressing compatibility. But with the proliferation of mobile devices, M2M communication endpoints, and other “connected” gadgets, there is a real need now for more IP addresses. Dave Thaler, software architect at Microsoft and Internet Engineer Task Force (IETF) co-chair, said, “The IETF has actually been preparing for this day for a long time. … [W]e’ve developed transition technologies to ease the transition to IPv6, while also looking at the impact of carrier-grade NATs [network address translations]. In short, the depletion of the IANA IPv4 address pool is not a crisis, and will not have any notable short-term effects.”

For an in depth presentation and panel session on this important topic, please attend the February 15, 2011 ComSocSCV meeting in Santa Clara, CA: The meeting is free, but we do request a small donation for food and drinks served from 6pm- 6:30pm.

IPv6 Migration, Business Continuity, Implementation Gaps