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IANA IPv4 Address Depletion: Change is the Only Constant

I thought my children would never fully understand what a life changing experience the Internet has had on our society. They do not know life without it. However, with the imminent depletion of IPv4 address space, this possibility could still exist. When they are ready to subscribe to broadband on their own, will the Internet be ready for them to connect?

The Internet will soon be going through large-scale transition. The current Internet Protocol address scheme known as IPv4 is near depletion, with the “free” address pool held by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) due to allocate the final IPv4 address any day now. According to Geoff Huston, APNIC Scientist, the IANA will run out of addresses in February. And the first date for a regional Internet registry to exhaust its addresses is October 2011 given current utilization rates. Once the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) free pool is exhausted, the Internet will need to evolve because no more IPv4 address space will be available from the RIRs. Without a solution, Service Providers (SPs) will not be able to seamlessly connect the massive growth of new revenue opportunities from smart phones, tablets, machine-to-machine applications, and sensor networks.

In an ideal world, everyone would just switch over to the next generation of Internet protocol, IPv6.  The IPv4 address shortage could be avoided, innovation and progress would continue, and the global economy would go on uninterrupted. IPv6 offers plenty of address space for every conceivable application.

If only it were so easy. The migration to IPv6 is complex and requires ingenuity to do it gracefully and swiftly. The journey begins with Cisco’s Carrier Grade IPv6 (CGv6) solution, which was introduced over a year ago in October 2009. CGv6 is a multi-tiered approach that allows SPs to “Preserve, Prepare, and Prosper” and lead the transformation toward an all IPv6 infrastructure in an orderly, incremental, and safe manner.

Strategies are available to preserve IPv4 addresses during run-out and immediately following depletion. IPv6 infrastructure is certain, but massive regions of the Internet could remain IPv4 creating a hybrid environment. SPs worldwide must protect their business viability with a transition strategy, which migrates their networks to IPv6 using a phased approach. SPs like Free (Illiad Group) have already begun this transition with technologies such as IPv6 Rapid Deployment (6rd) and Large Scale NAT (LSN).

The most critical aspect of the transition is that Service Providers (SP’s) take action now. The good news is, the industry is showing positive activity. In a first ever industry-wide attempt to ease transition issues, The Internet Society has organized an event that is being dubbed as World IPv6 Day. It will occur on June 8, 2011, with the Internet industry coming together to deploy and test IPv6 in what will be an unprecedented manner in terms of participation and scale. In addition, during Feb 8 -- 11, 2011, the world’s IPv6 gurus will be gathering for V6 World Congress 2011.  Cisco will be present with keynote addresses and speakers featuring Mark Townsley, Fred Baker, Chris Metz, Eric Vyncke, Gunther Van de Velde, among others.

If all goes well, perhaps those stories I tell my kids about “the world before the Internet” will continue as my own nostalgia and they will have an opportunity to witness the evolution of another life changing phenomenon of their own.

Partial map of the Internet based on the January 15, 2005 data found on opte.org
Citation: Partial map of the Internet based on the January 15, 2005 data found on opte.org

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