The end is nigh for IPv4

The authority that assigns Internet addresses is expected to announce this week that the last IPv4 addresses have been allocated, which a Canadian address management appliance maker says comes months earlier than expected.

(Time is running out for IPv4: Here’s what you need to know)

“A lot of us were working on the assumption that the IPv4 space would be around longer,” Richard Hyatt, co-founder and chief technology officer of Toronto-based BlueCat Networks said Tuesday.

The date of expiry among experts he talks to was this coming August, with service providers and organizations supposed to be fully ready to use IPv6, the next-generation protocol that succeeds IPv4 that offers more address space. Others predicted the free pool of IPv4 addresses would be gone by Feb. 1.

But, Hyatt warned, if IPv4 addresses are being consumed faster than expected “we’re going to get a bit of a surprise by the end of the year.”

According to Network World US, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) assigned two of the remaining blocks of IPv4 addresses – each containing 16.7 million addresses – to the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) on Tuesday.

That automatically caused a pre-planned distribution of the remaining five blocks of IPv4 address space, with one block going to each of the five Regional Internet Registries (RIR).

The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), which doles out IPv4 addresses to carriers and other network operators in Canada and the U.S., was expected to receive its last allotment of IPv4 addresses on Tuesday.

Experts say it will take anywhere from three to seven months for the registries to distribute the remaining IPv4 addresses to carriers.

Once the registries hand out all of the IPv4 addresses, network operators must either deploy complex, expensive network address translation technologies to share IPv4 addresses among multiple users or adopt the IPv6.

Even though the IT community has known 2011 would be a transition year “most of us are unprepared,” Hyatt said. “Even at BlueCat our (service) provider won’t even give us IPv6 addressing for testing. It’s a huge problem.”

However, he believes that as news spreads of IANA’s latest move awareness will spread. “I think it’s going to be a wake-up call for a lot of guys.”

First, organizations have to be certain their providers can handle IPv6 addresses, he said. Then they have to ensure network their routers, switches and DNS servers can as well.

On June 8 a number of providers and organizations will participate in a trial dubbed World IPv6 Test Day to check on their readiness. Hyatt, praised the effort, but wonders what the effect will be because so few users have IPv6 access.

Created 30 years ago, IPv4 has a 32-bit addressing scheme and can support approximately 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the Internet. IPv6 features a 128-bit addressing scheme and can support vastly more devices — 2 to the 128th power. IPv6 also includes built-in security with IPsec and easier management through auto configuration of devices.

Meanwhile, Juniper Networks said it is accelerating its plan to support IPv6 on its public-facing Web site and Web services, following criticism that the router maker was lagging rivals including Cisco Systems Inc. and Brocade Networks in this critical area.

In November, Juniper said that it would support IPv6 traffic on its main Web site by September 2012, the same date that Web sites operated by U.S. federal agencies are required to support IPv6. In contrast, Brocade Networks began supporting IPv6 on its main Web site — — last August, due to demands from the U.S. military to do so. Cisco set up a special-purpose IPv6-only Web site last August and is experimenting with techniques for supporting IPv6 on its main Web site this year.

“This is not just about our Web site. This is about getting content available over IPv6,” said Alain Durand, a well-known IPv6 expert who recently joined Juniper as director of software engineering. “We are moving up our deadline because we need to show we have a story on all fronts [of IPv6] … Getting content out over IPv6 is one of the main issues around deployment of this technology.”

(With files from Carolyn Duffy Marsan, Network World US)

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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