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It's official: Asia's just run out of IPv4 Addresses

Now, will you take switching over to IPv6 seriously?
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Well, that was fast. The Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) has just released the last block of Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) addresses in its available pool. We knew this was coming when the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) announced in February that the last of the world's remaining IPv4 blocks had been assigned to the Regional Internet Registries (RIR). What we didn't know was that APNIC would run out quickly. I, and most other people, thought that its supply of IPv4 addresses would last until at least early summer. We were wrong.

In a statement, APNIC announced that, "This event is a key turning point in IPv4 exhaustion for the Asia Pacific, as the remaining IPv4 space will be 'rationed' to network operators to be used as essential connectivity with next-generation IPv6 addresses (PDF Link). All new and existing APNIC Members who meet the current allocation criteria will be entitled to a maximum delegation of a /22 (1,024 addresses) of IPv4 space. "

So what happened? APNIC Director General Paul Wilson explained the Asia Pacific region is the first to reach the point of being unable to meet IPv4 demand. This is due to the unprecedented fixed and mobile network growth the region is experiencing. "Considering the ongoing demand for IP addresses, this date effectively represents IPv4 exhaustion for many of the current operators in the Asia Pacific region," Wilson said. "From this day onwards, IPv6 is mandatory for building new Internet networks and services."

Now the question is who's going to go next. RIPE, which handles Europe, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union countries? The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN)? I'd thought at one time, ARIN, at least, would hang on to 2012, but now I'm not so sure any of RIRs will make it to the end of 2011 with unused IPv4 addresses.

Owen DeLong head of the professional services division, at Hurricane Electric, a leading IPv6 backbone provider and ISP, told me that now that "APNIC is out now. RIPE is probably next and will probably be in a few months. Counting on IPv4 for continued growth is a dead-end strategy."

DeLong continued, "With APNIC running out this week, it is one more clear wakeup call for anyone thinking that the end of IPv4 growth is not yet upon us. It is real. It is here. It is urgent to deploy IPv6 to minimize the disruption this will cause."

Don't think he's just saying that because Hurricane Electric is in the IPv6 business. He's also saying it because he's dead right. Sure you, or your CIO or CFO, may not want to switch to IPv6, but there's simply not enough IPv4 addresses to go around.

There are work-arounds that make sense. For example, you can use IPv6 on the Internet side of your load balancers or Web servers while behind these devices or servers your intranet's platforms stick with IPv4. The bottom line still though is that sometime soon your business is going to need to at least be able to deal with IPv6 on its Internet connections. You can either wait until events force you into it-and that won't be pretty-or you can start planning on it now.

As DeLong said, "Whether you have enough IPv4 addresses or not, people you need to talk to will probably be pushed to IPv6 in the coming months. As a result, you will need IPv6 connectivity sooner, rather than later. The time to make a planned deployment is now."

Sure you can try to buy your way out by picking up unused IPv4 addresses. But, like John Curran, president and CEO of ARIN, recently told me that while "ARIN will recognize any transfer of address space that meets the policies developed by the community. Parties do not have to make use of ARIN's listing services; those are entirely a convenience to allow others, not ARIN, to match those needing and those with available space." But, I fully expect the prices for IPv4 addresses from such IP address middlemen, such as Addrex, to go way up in the coming months.

Wilson, who's now facing ISPs and customers that are in a panic over APNIC's new IPv4 restrictions said, with little sympathy, "IPv4 exhaustion has been identified as a key turning point for a long time, and it should come as no surprise. Any organization that wishes to remain viable must push forward with their IPv6 deployment." Amen.

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