Is the Internet Running out of IPs?

Thursday, the 3rd of Feb 2011 was an important day in the history of Internet. On this date the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the organization responsible for managing all IP addresses globally announced that its pool of IPv4 addresses had been totally exhausted. The last 5 blocks were handed over to the 5 regional IP registries: RIPE for Europe and Middle East, ARIN for North America, LACNIC for Latin America and Caribbean, AfriNIC for Africa and APNIC for Asia Pacific region. It is estimated that RIPE and ARIN will run out of IPv4 addresses at the end of this year, with the other registries exhausting their allocations by the end of next year.

The present IPv4 protocol was designed in the 1970s for the predecessor of the internet of today as a kind of experiment. The key milestone was the publishing of RFC 791, “Internet Protocol,” in September 1981, commonly referred to as IPv4. Considering IPv4 was designed for network that is a tiny fraction of the size of the modern internet, it has worked remarkably well. For obvious reasons, changes in core parts of the internet, such as IP, require a large amount of planning and coordination, and add many complexities during the transitional period.

The designers of Internet were aware of the limitations of IPv4 and developed new version of the Internet Protocol, called IPv6, which is almost infinite when compared to the IPv4. IPv6 was developed about 15 years ago, but it still has not been widely adopted, mostly because IPv4 and IPv6 are not compatible with each other; and free IPv4 ranges were still available. This IPv4 availability is no longer the case.

To answer some common questions the LeaseWeb Network departments receives about IPv6 from customers.

Below we have listed some common questions the LeaseWeb Network departments receives about IPv6 from customers to help you with the transition:

Will the lack of IPv4 cause the Internet to stop working? No. The Internet it its current form is safe. All current IP addresses will continue to work. Any further IPv4 for servers will come from reusing and recycling currently owned IPs, which will remain limited.

Do current LeaseWeb customers have to switch to IPv6? No. It is not necessary for LeaseWeb customers to go to the effort to switch to IPv6, from IPv4. LeaseWeb will use both protocols. With the passage of time, more and more traffic will eventually migrate to IPv6; and one day remaining IPv4 configurations will no longer be needed, but this is not going to happen any time soon.

What does IPv6 mean for LeaseWeb customers? It will mean no change for LeaseWeb customers. LeaseWeb’s Network Department has been aware of IPv4 exhaustion for years. LeaseWeb has designed and prepared its network to adapt to IPv6 smoothly and without interruption. Currently, LeaseWeb runs a dual stack network, which means that IPv4 and IPv6 addresses are used in parallel on the same links and devices with complete functionality.

Does LeaseWeb have enough IPs to meet future customer requirements? LeaseWeb still has plenty of IPv4 addresses for the foreseeable future. Present LeaseWeb customers do not have to do anything. However, as some of you have noticed, we have recently become somewhat frugal in allocating large blocks of IPs to any one customer. LeaseWeb understands your needs and endeavors to provide solutions to use IP addresses efficiently. This way LeaseWeb ensures all our customers will get the IP addresses they really need and nobody will be disadvantaged. IPv6 allocations do not have this issue.

Do all ISPs have to adopt IPv6 now? Actually, all service providers should have been ramping up for the deployment of IPv6 over the last few years. The IP registries still have usable IPv4 addresses remaining that will last for almost a year, and many companies continue to have large IP reserves, which will successfully meet their needs for years into the future with well-balanced assignments and address recycling.

Do I have to change my server applications? You should consider IPv6 in your current server planning. It is important to choose software going forward that it is IPv6 compatible. If you have enterprise hosting requirements, you should consider switches and routers that are full IPv6 compatible for maximum usability.

Taking reasonable care will ensure you and your customers the best environment, so that when you need to obtain IPv6 IPs in the future, you will not have to suddenly change your applications. It is estimated that in the second half of this year the first users with IPv6-only connectivity will be on the internet. These will be mostly mobile users. By having a balanced, well thought out plan for future deployments you will make sure all internet users will be able to use your services successfully.

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