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ARIN IPv4 Depletion: The Aftermath

It's been a year since the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), one of the five organizations that doles out IP addresses, ran out of IPv4 addresses in its free pool. Since then, ARIN has seen its IPv4 waiting list swell and the IPv4 transfer market busier than ever. At the same time, registrations for IPv6 -- the next-generation Internet protocol that offers massively more IP addresses -- continue to grow, although there's no mad rush for the new addresses.

ARIN counts nearly 400 requests on its waiting list for unmet IPv4 requests. The organization can fill the requests when addressees are either returned to ARIN or revoked; it's only been able to fill 13 of the requests. And the IPv4 transfer market -- where companies can buy IPv4 addresses from parties that don't need them anymore -- is bustling. According to ARIN, need-based transfer requests have increased almost 400% since its IPv4 supply was depleted.

Meanwhile, ARIN said it continues to issue IPv6 addresses to between 60 and 100 additional organizations each month. Now, more than half of ARIN's subscriber members have registered IPv6 addresses, which is a first, the organization said.

The vast majority of service providers were already working on IPv6 deployments before last year's IPv4 depletion, which was anticipated for some time, John Curran, ARIN president and CEO told me in a phone interview. "It's been as expected for the vast majority of service providers. We've had folks who either hadn't heard of IPv6, or it was so long ago that they forgot about it," he said. "For them we have the waiting list…you get put on the waiting list and you may be there for some time."

For organizations with more pressing needs, the best bet is to go to the transfer market, Curran said. The transfer market can help service providers that need more time to deploy IPv6, but they can't rely on it forever, he said.

"The transfer market can only be useful for so long because there are 7 billion people on the planet and there are only 4.3 billion IPv4 addresses," he said. "We don't have enough for everyone with a smart phone to have an address, let alone addresses needed for your home connection, the computer at work, and all those computers in the cloud."

There have been reports of a growing IPv4 black market, but Curran said it's difficult for someone to transfer address space without going through a registry's approval process.

Requests for IPv6 addresses remain strong, but haven't gone up significantly since the IPv4 depletion, Curran said. ARIN saw a surge in IPv6 requests from service providers three or four years ago. Now it's seeing more interest from enterprises, which should make sure their public-facing systems like web servers are IPv6 enabled to ensure high performance, he said.

 

Enterprises should make IPv6 part of their normal development cycle to ensure that they don't have to go back and upgrade public-facing systems after the fact, he advised.

ARIN has taken steps to ease the IPv6 transition, including implementing a new cost-effective fee schedule. It also has a small reserve of IPv4 addresses to help organizations that are moving to IPv6, but still need IPv4 addresses in order to connect customers accessing websites that aren't IPv6-enabled.

US looks to spur IPv6 adoption

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency within the US Department of Commerce, also is trying to encourage IPv6 adoption. As part of that effort, it's asking organizations that have implemented IPv6 to share their experiences with the NTIA. The agency wants to know about IPv6 benefits, obstacles, costs and other factors related to IPv6 deployments.

The NTIA noted in an August blog post that the number of Internet-connected devices is expected to explode to as many as 200 billion while IPv4 only supports about 4.3 billion IP addresses.

"The pace of IPv6 adoption has picked up recently, but only about a third of the Internet services in the United States are IPv6 capable. As IPv4 addresses become more scarce, companies and other organizations that have yet to transition to IPv6 may find it difficult to expand their Internet presence," the agency said.

The NTIA published an IPv6 Readiness Tool for Businesses in 2011.