ICANN today issued the last five blocks of IPv4 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. ICANN policy was that once there are only five blocks left, then they automatically get handed one each to each RIR.
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 IPv6.
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).