Broadband

IPv4 addresses: They are almost gone

This past Tuesday, the organization responsible for managing IPv4's unallocated-address pool announced that addresses are almost gone. What does that mean?

The Number Resource Organization (NRO) represents the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) and is responsible for the unused IPv4 addresses as explained in their charter:

"The NRO exists to protect the unallocated Number Resource pool, to promote and protect the bottom-up policy development process, and to act as a focal point for Internet community input into the RIR system."

That's great, but why tell me, you may ask. Well, they feel the IPv4 address space has reached a critical juncture. That is, the number of remaining IPv4 addresses is less than 10 percent. If you are a clock watcher, you can keep track of the estimated days left before they are all gone at the Internet Society Web site.

What's 10 percent?

The IPv4 addressing scheme consists of a 32-bit address space. According to RIPE that means IPv4 address space is 32-bits (232) in size and contains 4,294,967,296 addresses. At the time of this article, my iPhone app showed that 402,291,729 addresses (9.4 percent) remained. According to the app's count-down meter, all the addresses will be gone in 593 days.

Is it a problem?

I have written extensively (even made some podcasts with Joe Klein) about IPv6. Yet, I never really dwelled on this topic. It appears time to start. Like anything else, there are two sides: those that believe it is a problem and those that don't. Let's look at both viewpoints before deciding who's right.

Will run out

NRO raised the alarm, so they definitely feel it's a problem. Here is what Axel Pawlik, Chairman of the NRO says:

"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. 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."

According to my research, most agree with Pawlik. The IPv4 address space is rapidly depleting

Not running out

The people I've talked to, who feel we are not running out of addresses, tend to agree with what Steve Gibson talked about in this podcast. His argument is that NAT routing reduces the pressure to move to IPv6 and will continue to do so. So IPv4 addresses will not run out and the timeline for moving to IPv6 is unclear.

Since the podcast was two years ago. I tried (unsuccessfully) contacting Steve Gibson, to see if he still feels the same. Regardless, many businesses and organizations are hoping he is right. Switching everything to IPv6 is expensive and there is a steep learning curve.

Compare to IPv6

The replacement addressing system, IPv6, uses a 128-bit address space. With RIPE's help again, the IPv6 address space is 128-bits (2128) in size, containing 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 addresses. That seems like enough.

Final thoughts

Experts have differing opinions about what to expect when available IPv4 addresses become fewer and fewer. Some feel NAT will become commonplace at ISPs, large and small. Others say this is a wake-up call and IPv6 will gain momentum. Either way, it will be interesting.

My real concern is for the people who this directly affects. You know, the ones that have to make it work. As I mentioned earlier, IPv6 requires some effort to learn. For help in that regard, check out Charles Kozierok's Web site. It helped me get up to speed.

About

Information is my field...Writing is my passion...Coupling the two is my mission.

100 comments
wallacerl
wallacerl

I believe Comcast is helping me make my point regarding competitive advantage... See the announcement here: bit.ly/btZo4o

MasterGeek
MasterGeek

So the assigned addresses run out, this will force the RIR's to stop assigning "blocks" of addresses to their customers and maybe get the NRO to stop block assignments too. It will be another century or so before we have 4 billion devices attaching to the internet backbone at the same time. NAT at every level of the internet just makes sense. There are no convincing arguments for dedicated external IP's for EVERY device on anyone's network, so the guy with phones, iTouches and 22 computers in his house shouldn't be concerned as that's not even 1% of the available addressing space in the 192.168.xxx.xxx scheme and if he has trouble with that he can use the 10... scheme on his routers and connect a few hundred thousand computers. Now we can all go back to worrying about the "Mad Cow" scare, or Y2K, or whatever the next panic is.

mnie
mnie

12/21/2012 - Maybe the Mayans were right!

masiyaos
masiyaos

yes i ges thez always a solution!!

jrevier
jrevier

As I look through the group of comments it certainly appears that many of the comment are un-informed. V6 is a layer 3 protocol. Switches generally will be un-afected. The questions that need to be addressed are the routers capable of routing V6. It might be as simple a buying a new license for enabling V6 as the major router vendors have been able to route v6 for a long time. We will be living in a dual stack mode for many years to come Linux and Microsoft platforms have been able to v6 stacks/dual IPv4-V6 for a long time. I would recommend that a good knowledge of the MS tool called ?netsh? as it can make an admins life much easier. Another point although probably not as much of an issue today the minimum packet size for v6 is 1260 bytes and if you have lower bandwidth links those might have to be increase in BW. It seems that a knowledge of tunneling v6 in v4 is also a must for the first years as the common thought is that the will be v6 islands connected via v4 pipes. This comes back to the router admins to make these things happen. Understand what link local is and what global unicast addresses are and can do. If you were to enable the IPv6 protocol on your XP desktop you will see about 4-6 link local notions in the various interfaces. Vista, Win7 and Server 2008 have many more than XP. In the classes I am running the Link-Local address starting with FE80 are seeming to be the most difficult for the students to grasp. Cheers

taylorstan
taylorstan

It's not so much about the converting or learning IPv6. Remember what drives everything in this world. MONEY. ROI for this conversion will determine when and IF it ever happens. Trust and believe, if they can make tillions or more off of leasing IP's so ppl can connect to the net, then IPv6 is gonna be a pipe dream. There are ppl out there trying to figure that out. Secondly...the Small Business are the ones that will be hurt by this transition when it happen. You have to realize that most do not have full time IP staff or have a person with a broad understanding o compers and networking (I being one of them). Most will not be able to purchase a new hardware and have consultants come in just for IPv6. It's not going to be a light switch transition...it will gradually filter down to the basic user level over time(PNP devices). IPv4 and IPv6 will co-exist for many years after addresses run out before IPv4 dies out. BTW....this reminds me of the Imperial to Metric measuring conversion attempts here in the US back in the 70's-80's.

eric
eric

Ask the first private (and governmental) /8 recipients to give back their allocation ! In the first time of internet, big companies and US and UK agencies were allocated /8 (http://www.iana.org/assignments/ipv4-address-space/). Most of them don't provide internet access or service, so they don't really such big allocations at all... It's time for them to learn NAT ! For example, Defense Information Systems Agency has 4 /8, same as AfriNIC !!

anthony.sheehy
anthony.sheehy

You mention that the learning curve is a "steep learning curve." Having begun the transition to IPv6 within our organisation, I can tell you that this is a myth. It's different, and yet much simpler than IPv4 in many ways once you start to implement it. What IPv6 needs is for people to get off their butts and actually try it instead of gripping about it.

najafa4u
najafa4u

Will this affect new internet applications?

amir0
amir0

Hi Just an small comment. There are 24 IPv4 unallocated /8 adresses left. /8 means you can have 8 bits for the network and the remaining part for nodes. In other word each /8 gives 32-8=24 bits to work with and that means 2 ^ 24 nodes and number of possible (some of the adresses will not be useable because they are reserved etc) anyhow it means 2^24 = 16 777 216 and 24 * 16 777 216 = 402 653 184 are the amount of IPv4 adresses left. Thanks! Wanna see how it looks like? check the following link http://wp.me/pJmb8-5X

micheldufrenoy
micheldufrenoy

As anyone knows, IPv4 does not have 2^32 available *individual* static, routable IP addresses. There are network, broadcast and multicast addresses, private address spaces, etc. There is a lot of lost "slack". Indeed, an "individual" static IP address typically consumes 4 IP addresses. A business static class will always lose some, also. Ten years ago, I had an entire class C address space for my web-hosting business, that I ran out of my apartment. Today, "forgetabouit." NAT has only helped, that is, delayed the inevitable. IPv6 helps. Though, while 2^128 is not an accurate number of "available IP addresses," it is a certainly sufficient. Indeed, IPv6 is much better designed to handle multicast and other special ranges.

wallacerl
wallacerl

As someone who has identified the challenge and conducted an engineering analysis of alternatives, the issues are far more complex than a blog post to address - suffice to say, there are three key points of pain for anyone engaged in IT re the end of the IPv4 addresses. They are, in order of priority: Internet presence and interoperability, IT Enterprise support to business continuity, and business applications built/bought to operate within the enterprise. For the first point, the question to ask is, "How will my business survive without unfettered presence in the Internet in 2012 and beyond?" Next point is the Enterprise question, "How will everyone who goes on business travel with their work laptops be able to connect back to the home office across the Internet in 2012 and beyond?" Finally, the business application question is, "When working in a private Cloud computing environment in 2012 and beyond, how will I employ the optimal bandwidth and most secure routing schema for distributed processing, enabling us to outpace our competition?" If your strategic planning process hasn't at least identified those questions, to be answered with hard engineering facts very, very shortly, your company is behind the economic technology curve and seriously at risk of losing competitive advantage in your industry.

santeewelding
santeewelding

I knew it. You maintain both personas so that you can slip into one or the other as befits your motive.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

with the Web facing items having both - just like a map on a firewall.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Will someone try to "lock-up" as many IPv4 addresses as possible so that they can sell them.

wallacerl
wallacerl

I raised this point earlier in the discussion, and see your perception of reality. Let me reiterate my earlier point and make something clear. When I was leading a profit center for the first Microsoft approved service provider to migrate Banyan VINES to NT (and then Win2000), we moved a lot of enterprises. Banyan as a company is gone, yet there are still Vines networks in operation today. Why? Customers refuse to get rid of them, and have spent an inordinate amount of money keeping them alive. If you, in your opinion, wish to continue employing IPv4 for your internal enterprise, due to your perception that "Good Enough" is NAT and a subnet mask of 192.168.xxx.xxx managed with your DHCP, then you are ignoring what IT was originally meant to do - Support The Business Functions Of A Company. How will your workstation web browsers hit the websites on the v6 Internet? How will your website have a v6 Internet presence? How will your email be sent over the v6 Internet? VoIP? IM? If your business has none of these strategic business requirements, then by all means, NAT away... and spend the money to maintain that network, much like the Vines folks are maintaining theirs.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

You might want to do a little reading about Joe Klein's research and several years of talks now given about IPv4 exhaustion and IPv6 issues that big name vendors continue to ignore (eg. ineffective firewalls labeled IPv6 ready). IPv4 exhaustion may not cause a sudden loss of the internet but it's also more than a hollow scare hype blitz from the mass media. Actually, the mass media and big industry are making a point of avoiding the topic for the most part.

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

For giving me a chuckle. You may be right but it's still funny. Just like the Y2K scare. Just last year I found an HP-UX machine that was unpatched. The date was always wrong! Surely this must be the end of days. ;-D The good news is that not everyone has to adandon IPv4 all at once. The more people do, the more IPv4 space becomes available. I predict some die hard oldsters will refuse to give up the IPv4 network and it will exist as a museum protocol. Kids will connect to it for fun and talk about the glory days of the internet on IRC.

wallacerl
wallacerl

Your points are true; let's address the small business point. Who is the ISP to the small business? That is the issue. Two points to consider: 1. How will the small business web site publish the Quad A for IPv6 Internet browsers to find them? This is an ISP (or maybe the web hosting site)issue. 2. How will the small business attain an IPv6 address to get to the IPv6 Internet? Again, the ISP issue. If the customer wants IPv6, it is pure economics - the demand requires a supply. Oh, this isn't a technology barrier. This is a perception barrier. Let's address ROI. If you do not have an Internet presence, what is the impact to your business in your industry? If you are a dry cleaners, probably not much. But what if you have already established an Internet sales presence (e.g., E-Bay, Amazon)? Your competitors will already be investigating the "New Internet Frontier", and attempting to capture interest by being their first with the best response times... Food for thought...

amir0
amir0

That is a good idea but imagin that we are more than 7 bilion people and IPv4 addresses are limited to 4,7 bilj (in theory, in practic you loose lots of the when doing sementations, ect). So there are not enough IP addressess. Lets move to IPv6 and not continue with more than 30 years old IPv4. Then you may have lots of opportunities for new applications which may need end-to-end communications.

sam
sam

The problem is that you can't just ditch ipv4 and cross to ipv6, unless you want to cut off every other ipv4 client in the world, as there is no fallback designed in ipv6. This is a fatal flaw in my opinion. It means even if everyone was to start implementing ipv6 today, we can't just switch off ipv4 from our networks until the very last server is gone. It's not workable in my opinion.

jsklein
jsklein

That is true, IPv6 is easy, but many people that treat it as just IPv4 with big numbers, and run into problem later in the process, with network stability, scalability, security, and network management. People need to take the time to learn the details before jumping in to quickly.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Thank you, Anthony. I am glad the transition is going smoothly for you.

jrevier
jrevier

Keep in mind that the v6 address is signifcantly longer and if you store addresses in the application that might be a problem. your code maybe hard coding v4 for some reason and will not know what to do with v6 hence broken code. There are parsers avaiable to run against the uncompliled code to check out those kinds of inconsitentsy.

jsklein
jsklein

You will need to ensure your development environment us up-to-date and supports IPv6, along with your system logging and parsing of any network addresses.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

But the devices that attach to the Internet. If I understand what you are asking.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Thanks for sharing the way the number is arrived at.

jsklein
jsklein

An executive that understands this stuff? Where did you come from and can you talk to other executive about the issues? Woow.

jdclyde
jdclyde

I know the address on my Charter cable modem is not a real world account. they NAT all of the customers unlike the old daze where each customer was using a real IP address. If I do a trace route I see I go from my lan of 192 to a 10dot network. With more and more providers doing this, it just delays this more and more. I don't think my sonicwall at work that is less than a year old supports ip6, but then again, I never really looked.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

There's no reason to run around screaming the sky is falling...yet. We do however, need to make preparations for IPv6. Since I'm not retiring for another 20, I may as well learn it. :)

jsklein
jsklein

Many people in the IPv6 community believe there will be a spot market for those looking for IPv4 addresses. At last view, the number was around $30 per single IPv4 address.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

It could be a double-edged sword though. The one buying all the addresses could get stuck with them if the switch to IPv6 ramped up enough.

markpenny
markpenny

A large number of ipv4 addresses could be made available if large universities, particularly in the UK & USA did not have PC's with public IP addresses rather than NAT. Lets tackle that one first.

taylorstan
taylorstan

The ISP will make sure their equipment is IPv6 ready...but the SMB internal network probably will not be. Accually you'll be surprised at how many SMBs need internet. That dry cleaner, for example, may need to use it for materials and supply ordering, accounting, and email. Their supply company may charge a service fee for ordering by phone or by mail. So they too have an ROI to take into account. An internet presence is not just providing a service to users, but also users using the services provided.

wallacerl
wallacerl

I'm more than willing to discuss the transition to IPv6 with any executive interested in establishing a competitive advantage in their industry through the appropriate insertion of technology. We'd start with their corporate strategic plan, and start down the path.

trejrco_z
trejrco_z

I don't scream fire and brimstone, but it makes good business sense to be ahead of the curve and ready to deploy rather than need a fire-drill at the last minute. And wait, you get to retire??

Tzakuk
Tzakuk

Hewlett-Packard got one of the first class A blocks, so did Digital Equipment. When HP took over DEC, they also got the additional class A block. What does HP think it needs 32,ooo,ooo addresses for? NAT and PAT work just as well for HP, GE, IBM, and Halliburton. Running out? sure, when big companies are hoarding the majority of IPv4 addresses. If they would break up the larger blocks, we would have enough addresses for years to come.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

It could be like Delaware automobile tags, the lower the number the more valuable.

trejrco_z
trejrco_z

That is exactly how it should play out - once IPv6 is the predominant network protocol, org's can start dropping IPv4 - this is probably quite some way out :) ... thus lowering their value. At that point, as with any "commodity", supply and demand will determine the price ... if a market is allowed, debate rages.

Tzakuk
Tzakuk

I agree with this, in part. But I believe the trouble lies more with big business. Take a look at the ICANN class A assignments. Does HP need 32 million addresses?

trejrco_z
trejrco_z

Address reclamation, even if readily doable, would have a negligible impact on IPv4's address exhaustion. The last estimate I saw put it at adding less than 2 years, IIRC. And, note that it isn't even feasible. You cannot force anyone to give up the addresses they legitimately have. You can ask nicely, and they can say no. Some say yes, but they certainly don't need to and often it means too much work.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

There are a number of good reasons to not have your machines on public IP these days. It was nice for the brief time that it was relatively safe for any platform attached directly though.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

Granted, this was in the win 95 days, but every single device in the building had an outside IP. Basically every pc sat on the network and were connected via dumb hubs. Talk about a security nightmare! They eventually changed this once they moved over to a routed/switched network and actually adopted security practices...but they continue to keep the same huge address range to this day "just in case."

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I am not sure what avenue can be taken to get them back though.

jsklein
jsklein

Implementing IPv6 is like running out of gas, you know it is going to happen, you know you have to find a gas station and be able to pay for it, but there are also some, who prefer to run out of gas and walk with a gas can.

jsklein
jsklein

Yes, but in Delaware which tag would be considerd a low number? 20 or 000 020 or 0x0 014 or 0001 0100 ?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Even with hardware having included IPv6 for some time now, this hub will be too old. When was the last time anyone saw SOHO network hubs without 10/100 support? So, it's a successful end to a long running egg hunt but the outcome is only of use until the end of IPv4 local relevance. I think I'll end up tracking down a switching hub that allows the switching to be disabled as seems to be your future solution also.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I sure appreciate the expertise you two bring to the discussion.

trejrco_z
trejrco_z

You are too kind! But thanks (and some compliments back at you)!

jsklein
jsklein

For thoes who don't know it, TJ is one of the top IPv6 trainers and consultants in the North America.

trejrco_z
trejrco_z

Even if you could find (or already have) a dumb old hub ... it is already IPv6 ready! (I have 20 of them for a class we deliver ... some day we will re-design the course and use a switch with MAC address learning disabled, but for now they are still going strong!)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

They've become strangely hard to find these days. Unless one can find a shop with old inventory or a non-switching hub in a friend's basement the only currently sold hub I've heard about is a Cisco beast for big networks. (I need to see network traffic without having to muck with arp tables.)

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