IPv4 all gone

February 4th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

today issued the last five blocks of addresses to the five regional address registries. Earlier in the week the Asia-Pacific registry was allocated the last two blocks to be allocated normally. policy was that once there are only five blocks left, then they automatically get handed one each to each RIR.

ICANN announced:

A critical point in the history of the Internet was reached today with the allocation of the last remaining IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) Internet addresses from a central pool. It means the future expansion of the Internet is now dependant on the successful global deployment of the next generation of Internet protocol, called .

The announcement was made by four international non-profit groups, which collaboratively work to coordinate the world’s Internet addressing system and its technical standards.

At a news conference in Miami, Florida, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) joined the Number Resources Organization (NRO), the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) and the Internet Society in announcing that the pool of first generation Internet addresses has now been completely emptied.

The final allocation of Internet addresses was administered by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which is a function of ICANN.

So what does it mean?

The new Internet protocol, IPv6, will open up a pool of Internet addresses that is a billion-trillion times larger than the total pool of IPv4 addresses (about 4.3 billion), which means the number of IPv6 addresses is virtually inexhaustible for the foreseeable future.

The best analogy in terms of the respective sizes is that if the total IPv4 address space is a golf ball, the total IPv6 address space would be the Sun.

The IPv6 address space is 2^128. There are almost 7 billion humans on Earth, so each of us could have around 48 thousand trillion trillion IPv6 addresses.

The allocation of the final IPv4 addresses is analogous to the last crates of a product leaving a manufacturing warehouse and going to the regional stores or distributions centers, where they can still be distributed to the public. Once they are gone, the supply is exhausted. In this case, the RIRs will distribute the last IPv4 addresses to Internet Service Providers, universities, governments, telecommunications companies and other enterprises.

“It’s only a matter of time before the RIRs and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must start denying requests for IPv4 address space,” said Raúl Echeberría, Chairman of the Number Resource Organization, the umbrella organization of the five RIRs. “Deploying IPv6 is now a requirement, not an option.”

What will be interesting to watch is whether a secondary commercial market emerges for IPv4 addresses, as they become more scarce.

They won’t become scarce in countries like NZ for a couple of years, but it will still be very prudent to make sure that any new equipment you buy is IPv6 compatible, and to consider renumbering to IPv6 at some stage (while retaining IPv4 also).

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12 Responses to “IPv4 all gone”

  1. PaulL (5,776 comments) says:

    There have been a lot of attempts to create a burning platform around this, but it’s just not happening.

    Seems to me that NAT addressing, which most organisations and homes are using, delays the requirement for IPv6 for some years. There are a lot of organisations sitting on massive IP ranges that they no longer need, and I agree a secondary market will be created to resell those to people who want them.

    Conversely, IPv4 + NAT addressing is a pretty crappy solution. It works, but there’s a lot of fiddle faddling around.

    Most of my equipment at home is IPv6 compatible. But I can’t run IPv6, because most of the base internet infrastructure just won’t run IPv6. And if I can’t do all the things on the internet that I’m used to doing, then it’s useless to me. At bottom, we need the core parts of the internet, and the big web sites, to be full accessible on IPv6 before we start telling consumers they need to do something. And I don’t see a lot of evidence that’s happening fast.

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  2. Pauleastbay (5,030 comments) says:

    Thanks Graeme

    I was struggling withe trillion trillion thing, atoms is much easier LOL

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  3. Graeme Edgeler (3,222 comments) says:

    Thanks Graeme…

    Unfortunately, my calculation was off by a lot =)

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  4. MikeMan (171 comments) says:

    IPv6 is going to be a major, not because it has to be but because most companies have put it off until “Someone Else” starts.

    Inspire, Xnet and FX Networks are all IPv6 Dual Stack now (FX Preso here.)

    Most home ADSL routers that are more than 6-12 months old are not IPv6 ready, but replacing with a new ADSL2+ / VDSL dual protocol device would be a sensible move to give the most flexibility for the next 2-3 years.

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  5. Chris Doms (73 comments) says:

    “The best analogy in terms of the respective sizes is that if the total IPv4 address space is a golf ball, the total IPv6 address space would be the Sun.”

    If the figures you’ve given (2^128) are correct, then this isn’t quite true. A better (more true) analogy would be that if IPv4 is the size of a single atom then IPv6 would be larger than the observable universe.

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  6. David Farrar (1,811 comments) says:

    Chris – Nope it is not that big. The universe is around 10^80 atoms. IPv^6 is 3.4 x 10^38 – a long long way off.

    The number of estimated stars is 10^24, so there are enough IPv6 addresses to supply 340 trillion to every solar system.

    Atoms are very very small though – around 10^50 on Earth alone. So we don’t actually have enough for every atom on the planet.

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  7. peterwn (2,938 comments) says:

    Geoff Huston Chief Scientist at the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), the Regional Internet Registry sopke on this at LCA2011 in Brisbane. He considered that the major internet providers will not want to outlay the money for IPV6 as long they can keep IPV4 going by means of +nat etc.

    It would follow that some market in IPV4 addresses is inevitable, but the value of IPV4 addresses would be capped because of the potential availability of IPV6.

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  8. bka (133 comments) says:

    DPF I think Chris is talking size comparison of an atom to the universe, as per your golfball/sun, not number of atoms.
    Diameter of observable universe estimated = 93 billion lightyears.
    Metres in a lightyear about = 10^16
    Diameter of a helium atom = 62 x 10^-12 m
    Observable universe diameter is about 1.5×10^37 larger than diameter of a helium atom.
    Number of IPV6 addresses = 2^128 = 3.4×10^38
    So with IPV6, a wire from one end of the observable universe to the other could have about 23 addresses for each length section of wire that was equal to a helium atom’s diameter.
    For IPV4; 4.3 billion addresses times diameter of a helium atom about = 0.27m. So at 23 addresses for each helium diameter length section of wire, you would need a wire only about 1cm long to take them all.

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  9. John Ansell (861 comments) says:

    I don’t think I have ever read a post and thread as mindbogglingly complicated as this.

    Would anyone care to explain what all this means for us ordinary punters – if anything?

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  10. big bruv (12,380 comments) says:

    Ha ha…thank you Mr Ansell, I am glad you are brave enough to admit what I could not.

    In other words…what the fuck are they on about?

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  11. bka (133 comments) says:

    We are mainly on about how big a number the new lot of internet addresses is. Assuming I haven’t stuffed up, the number of new internet addresses compared to what we have now is like the width of the visible universe compared to the width of a marble.

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  12. adze (1,695 comments) says:

    In very simple terms, think of every internet device needing something like a telephone number to be able to talk to each other – where the telephone number HAS to be no more than 7 digits long (that’s IPv4). That’s a lot of possible numbers, but not enough for the whole planet. “Telephone companies” had methods to work around this limitation for a long time, but even these can’t support further expansion much longer.

    We need to upgrade the number of possible telephone numbers, but because it’s an enormous task to renumber everything, we want to have a LOT of numbers so we don’t run out again anytime in the foreseeable future.

    So, IPv6 is like a million-digit telephone number. :)

    “Sure, my daytime phone number is 063772821661772366622222883746622….. [24 years later] 83737737828282557…”

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