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Depleting IPv4 addresses: Is it time to start transitioning to IPv6? - part 1

The other day I was searching for something on the internet and just when I thought that I'd found what I was looking for, the website I opened threw a '404 -Page not found error'.
This got me thinking, what if you woke up one morning and tried to connect to the internet and you find that everything is down. I know this sounds extremely far-fetched, but there is no denying the fact that the internet is so closely intertwined with our daily lives that even small glitches/changes have the potential to snowball into major disruptions.

The Internet is not same as it was a decade ago or even a couple of years ago. It would've been hard to imagine in the days of the ARPANET, that the internet would grow into the giant mesh that it is today. In the last 5 to 10 years there has been a profusion of 'always on' internet enabled equipment requiring a public IP address. As the numbers of devices grow, so does the need for the 'limited' public IP (basically a protocol/language addresses for communication across networks) addresses.  Also the evolution of newer technologies like cloud computing, IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service), PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) and SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) is only going to drive the demand for IP address even more.
An IPv4 address is 32-bit long and so the total number of IPv4 addresses work out to be roughly around 4 billion addresses. Large as this number might seem to be, the address pool is now on the brink of exhaustion. Warning bells have already started ringing, with APNIC (Asia Pacific Network Information Center) which is the Regional Internet Registry (RIR)-(authority for distribution and allocation of IP addresses and AS (Autonomous Systems) numbers) already out of IPv4 addresses (which doled out the last address in April 2011). The rest of the RIRs are well on the path of exhaustion with conservative estimates pegging the final depletion of the address pool to occur within the next 1.5-2 years.

Just as back in the 90's when the Y2K bug was seen as the precursor to impending doom for IT systems all around the world, IPv4 address depletion/exhaustion is viewed as a crisis on similar line . But on the contrary, the similarity ends there.  IPv4 users will continue to browse the internet and perform all the functions but further scaling would be a real problem with the lack of additional IP addresses. As long as IPv4 is in use along with NAT(Network Address Translation) it would be smooth sailing all along until ISPs start forcing IPv6 adoption to continue normal functioning.
 

Organizations who are rapidly scaling up and expanding, users connecting via new IPv6 internet connections to unprepared online applications, government agencies making it mandatory for contract bidders to be IPv6 ready(U.S government already require Federal agencies to be IPv6 ready) are just some of the sample cases which highlight the urgency to look for alternatives to counter IPv4 depletion.


In the next blog, I would like to explore more on some of the options which can be considered as prospective solutions and do a comparative analysis to find the best fit.

Comments

nice post keep it up :)

yes..i agree..but its already online..so many agencies are using IPV6 in US now..

Thank you Harman and hope you found it useful!

Hi Rajeev,

Thanks for your comments.Yes,there is always uncertainity associated with the adoption of a new technology and by mandating federal agencies to move to IPv6, the U.S goverment has probably taken a step to allay fears surrouding it. Slowly and gradually we are seeing the shift, but it is not happening at the pace at which it should've happened.The 'IPv6 ready' networks are still an extremely miniscule part of whole internet and the need of the hour is to accelerate by encouraging IPv6 migration/IPv4-IPv6 co-existance.I would be exploring this aspect in my next post so stay tuned!

Kaustubh

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