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Providers Pushed To IPv6, As Europe’s Last IPv4 Addresses Are Issued

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The last IPv4 addresses will be strictly rationed

The Internet’s transition to a new address scheme, IPv6, reached a new milestone today as the European regulator RIPE NCC opened up its last block of older addresses.

The Internet was set up with a limited number of addresses  – around four billion –  under version 4 of the Internet protocol  (IPv4) protocol and IPv6 was created when it was realised these would run out.

Over the last 20 years, IPv4 addresses have been ingeniously eked out, and IPv6 is still little used. Now Europe and Asia have reached their last stocks, and RIPS has announced that IPv4 addresses will be strictly limited – issued 1000 at a time, to organisations who already have shown they are moving to the new world by also taking IPv6 addresses.

IPv6 can’t be delayed

“APNIC [the Asia-Pacific registrar] reached this milestone last year, and RIPE is the second of the five regional Internet registries to run out,” said a RIPE spokesperson. , “ARIN, AfrNIC and LACNIC [the registries for North America, Africa and Latin America] still have some left.”

In fact, the cupboard isn’t entirely bare. In February 2011, the Internet passed a trigger point  as the central authority IANA got down to its last five address blocks (known as /8s) each of which contain 16.8 million addresses.

The five /8s were allocated, one each, to the five regional authorities, according to a previous agreement. APNIC got through to its last block later in 2011 and RIPE is now starting to dole out its last batch of  IPv4 addresses. Since RIPE NCC covers Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia (including Russia), it may not take long for them to go – although RIPE NCC has promised to handle them fairly.

“When the Internet was first designed it seemed highly unlikely that IP address space would ever be an issue,” said Axel Pawlik, managing director of  RIPE NCC. “However, the limitations of the pool of IPv4 address space became clear over time, and in the last few years we have been monitoring supplies closely, preparing ourselves and all stakeholders for the next stage of the Internet. Reaching the last /8 underlines the importance of IPv6 deployment, which is vital to the future growth of the Internet.”

About half of RIPE NCC members (the local internet registries or LIRs) already have IPv6 addresses, but Pawlik believes the European Internet is “a long way” from being prepared and hopes that RIPE NCC can avoid any troubles through diplomacy: “RIPE NCC and its members have always held due diligence, transparency and fairness as top priorities. As the supply of available IPv4 address space has become scarce, these priorities, which underlie the RIPE NCC’s management of critical Internet resources, are more important than ever. By following the policies devised and agreed by the Internet community, the careful management of remaining IPv4 address space has been assured.”

Today, RIPE NCC’s  interactive graph shows the number of available IPv4 addresses dipped towards the danger level of 16.8 million yesterday, and the registrar reported it fell below that level today.

Under the new procedures, which kick in today, each LIR can receive one /22 (1,024 IPv4 addresses). But it will only get that if it can prove it really needs IPv4 addresses for a specific purpose and it if has already shown its commitment to IPv6 by buying an allocation of the new addresses.

Will the struggle be worth it? Pwalik reminds us that IPv6 will actually work better than IPv4, once we have moved across: “IPv6 vastly increases the amount of address space, helping to enable an exciting turning point in society as Internet connected devices become increasingly more sophisticated and commonplace. IPv6 sets a firm foundation for guaranteeing that the future Internet remains reachable for all.”

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