NRO Warns Of Looming Shortage Of IPv4 Addresses

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

NRO warned that there is less than 10 percent of IPv4 addresses available, and has urged people to start deploying the next-generation Internet Protocol (known as IPv6)

The Internet community is being urged to start deploying IPv6, after the official body of the five Regional Internet Registries warned that fewer than 10 percent of IPv4 addresses remain unallocated.

“The available pool of unallocated Internet addresses using the older IPv4 protocol has now dipped below the 10 percent mark,” warned NRO (Number Resource Organisation). “There are now just 24 address blocks (each block is about 16-million IP addresses) that ICANN has not yet allocated to the Regional Internet Registries around the world.”

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ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), is the entity that is responsible for the global co-ordination of the Internet’s unique number and address identifiers, and its boss has made it clear that change now needs to happen.

“This is the time for the Internet community to act,” said Rod Beckstrom, ICANN’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “For the global Internet to grow and prosper without limitation, we need to encourage the rapid widespread adoption of the IPv6 protocol.”

IPv4 (or Internet Protocol version 4) is the fourth revision in the development of the Internet Protocol (IP), and is still by far the most widely deployed Internet Layer protocol. This is because IPv6 is still in its infancy, in terms of deployment.

With the never ending demand for for IP addresses, it is hoped that IPv6 will provide some much needed breathing room for the international registries. This is because IPv4 addresses contain only 32 bits of data, while IPv6 addresses contain 128 bits, which gives it much greater capacity to accommodate the growth of the Internet.

“For example, if all IPv4 address could fit within a Blackberry, it would take a storage device the physical size of the Earth to contain all available IPv6 addresses,” said the NRO. “There are 300 trillion trillion trillion possible IPv6 addresses. The smallest IPv6 address blocks that an Internet Service Provider (ISP) would typically allocate, of which there are over 2.3 million trillion, each contain more than 18 million trillion Internet usable network addresses – far more than the entire world uses today with IPv4. These are available to any ISP or company in every corner of the globe.”

The IT industry has previously been accused of ignoring the availability of IPv6 addresses for too long, so the announcement should act as a wake up call for the Internet community. Equipment suppliers are now making their products IPv6 compatible. For example, last November D-Link announced that its portfolio of managed switches had received the official blessing from the IPv6 Forum.

That said, we are not in any danger yet of running out of IP addresses, as it is estimated that it will probably take at least a couple of years to completely deplete the available pool of unallocated IPv4 addresses.

“This is a key mileston e in the growth and development of the global Internet,” noted Axel Pawlik, Chairman of the NRO. “With less than 10 percent of the entire IPv4 address range still available for allocation to RIRs, it is vital that the Internet community take considered and determined action to ensure the global adoption of IPv6.”

“The limited IPv4 addresses will not allow us enough resources to achieve the ambitions we all hold for global Internet access,” Pawlik added. “The deployment of IPv6 is a key infrastructure development that will enable the network to support the billions of people and devices that will connect in the coming years.”