For years we’ve been told that IPv4—the present Internet protocol standard—would be running out soon, and when IPv6 takes over, there will be enough IP addresses to go around for every sand particle on the earth’s surface. That sounds wonderful, but nobody seems to truly understand that IPv4 addresses are running out.
Even now, when the Number Resource Organization (NRO)—the official representative of the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) that oversee the allocation of Internet number resources—recently announced that less than 10% of available IPv4 addresses remain unallocated, businesses still don’t seem to care. Companies that depend on the Internet for their business seem oblivious, as do ISPs who provide Net access for their clients.
Train wreck dead ahead
Why is this? For one thing, IPv6 is not your traditional “upgrade” with immediately beneficial features. The upgrade will improve things like multicasts and router processing, but the Internet won’t run significantly faster over IPv6 than it does IPv4. Also, there aren’t enough trained IPv6 network engineers around, so companies will have human-resource problems implementing the upgrade. Why not simply wait?
The inconvenient truth is that the longer we wait, the more costly it will be once we eventually have to switch.
“We’ve reached a critical low water mark for IP addresses,” said Geoff Huston, chief scientist for the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) and global expert on IP address usage. “Out of the original 4.5 billion [IP] addresses, less than 400 million remain. This is simply not enough to fuel further Internet growth. Consider how many new Internet compatible mobile phones were connected during 2009 in Asia-Pacific alone.”
While APNIC will continue to allocate IPv4 addresses to the industry, it anticipates that the central world-wide pool will run out during late 2011. Asia-Pacific ISPs will only be able to get IPv4 address for a few months after that, until APNIC’s pool depletes. Last month, APNIC issued a warning to the Internet community in Asia about this curiously little-known upcoming threat: that organizations relying on the Internet to conduct business have only a limited time to act and adapt to changing technology. It is anticipated that for some years to come, businesses will continue to run IPv4 and IPv6 simultaneously over dual-stacking.