IPs Continue To Dwindle

It's widely known, at least within geekdom, that the number of available IP addresses is on a collision course with the number zero. The depletion of the IPv4 address space, and the necessity of migrating to the next-generation IPv6, has been discussed ad infinitum in geek circles since RFC 2460 was published in December 1998.

That discussion has not always been about the best way to resolve the issue, however. The imminence of IPv4 exhaustion has consistently been denied, and its emergent nature downplayed. Indeed, APNIC Director General Paul Wilson's 2003 statement on the subject — describing depletion predictions as "misinformation" and "rumor", while stating that existing IPv4 would suffice for another twenty years — brings to mind the infamously mis-attributed quote "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

That the latter missed the mark by several billion is inconsequential for most of us, but that the former was a dozen over certainly isn't. The timeline that once had decades to go has now dropped into counting by months, and the outlook for meeting the deadline isn't good.

Hence the possibility for some surprise — not that it is happening, but how soon. Though estimates vary considerably, many credible sources place the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority's pool at zero by June 2011 — just over a year from now — with the various regional authorities drying up by early 2012. Some predictions, however, place zero hour before the end of this year.

Meanwhile, nobody is finding encouraging numbers on IPv6 implementation. Decimal points feature prominently in most — figures include 0.15%, 0.2%, 0.238%, 0.403%, and a heartening, but probably skewed, 10% - 13%. Perhaps the Mayans did know a thing or two about 2012...

Even though the numbers are low, work is being done to prepare for the inevitable.

Comcast, one of the largest ISPs in the U.S., will be conducting several IPv6 tests in the near future: 6RD (rapid IPv6 deployment) and CMTS tests are scheduled to begin in June, testers have been selected for a check of fiber-based Ethernet for business beginning "soon", and a trial run of DS-Lite (dual-stack lite) planned for an as-yet unannounced date.

Verizon is conducting tests of its own as well. The company announced earlier this month that a test of its FiOS network is already underway, using Cisco's IPv6 over MPLS solution, 6PE.

Verizon's packet technology director, Jean McManus, highlighted the importance of the experiment: "As a result of this trial, we can begin to validate our strategy for IPv6 migration for the residential market while maintaining service continuity during the transition."


Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.


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They need to implement IPv6,

Patrick713's picture

They need to implement IPv6, what are they waiting for!!!


Fraschidi's picture

It's all about control. By keeping ip addresses "scarce", they have the excuse of requiring NAT and therefore dynamic public ip addresses, thereby eliminating or controlling the growth of demand from small businesses, entrepreneures, individual developers and others who would benefit from a static ip address, and they are also controlling expectations of their customers, who would otherwise be demanding the ability to run servers/daemons on those static ip addresses. The individuals/small businesses/developers expectations would also be shifting to more and more demand for symmetrical service, or just faster upload speeds once they figured out the benefits of their own static ip address, or their own multiple static ip addresses.

Signs of progress ...

MB94128's picture

I've been watching fiber roll-outs in the UK and the US. A house blog at a UK ISP, trefor.net, mentions how another UK ISP is handling IPv4 support as their network switches to IPv6. The links below include an article on how Uncle Sam is progressing (dated, but it's something).

Why not, who not.

Dave Miller's picture

No-one wants to be first. No-one will change until they have an economic incentive. For that we may have to wait for a product that needs millions of IP addresses all by itself.

Once the first IPv6 network opens up and shows stability, other nets will need to switch over. Adoption will slowly reach a tipping, and voila!

America will be last. After all, they're still using feet and inches.

Why adoption of IPv6 is so slow

Jeff Silverman's picture

I called up my ISP and asked them about their plans to transition to IPv6. They said that they would make the transition when their customers asked for it. So I asked them how many of their customers had asked for it. Counting you? he answered. Yes, I clarified. One.

All major operating systems support IPv6. All major networking hardware supports IPv6. My DSL modem works at the ethernet level, so it doesn't care about what protocol I use, however, its configuration software is IPv4 only, so I will still need IPv4 to configure it. I suspect that there are a lot of devices like that.

It's 2010...where is IPv6?

David Lane's picture

Not surprising. I called up my ISP several years ago (and in fact, I wrote it up for the Linux Journal) and they had never heard of IPv6. The same day as I posted the article, their manager for business services was touting their successful roll out of IPv6 to many commercial customers. Of course, no one specific was mentioned.

I have chronicled in these pages my experience with rolling out IPv6 in the Federal (US) government and that, essentially failed, experiment.

Device support for IPv6 has been around since the late 1990s in some devices, more recently in others. Microsoft supported it at the stack as early as 2005, but only recently in templates and other key places. Of course Linux has supported far longer.

The conversion to IPv6 will not occur until:

1) There is a good reason. Running out of IP addresses does not seem like a good reason (although it is probably the best one we can think of).

2) Security and networking people (and I put them in that order for a reason) realize how to properly implement IPv6, rather than implementing it like IPv4, which will cause more things to break then to work correctly.

3) Large blocks of users (read corporations) begin demanding IPv6 support. Given the costs associated with 1 and 2 above, do not expect to see corporations moving anytime soon.

The United States is most likely going to be one of the last places to convert. There are several good reasons for this, but it is something that all of us who deal with infrastructure should be addressing now and in many cases, we simply are not.

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

Why and how

El Perro Loco's picture

Unfortunately, the threat of depletion of the IPv4 has been news for so long that nobody believes it is real, anymore. You know, crying wolf... I'd guess there has been a serious PR problem somewhere.

Except for that PR problem, what is the *real* cause of the non-adoption of IPv6, then? I do not know, but those "in charge" should. Telcos, equipment manufacturers, big users, governments, etc.

Is the problem political? Technical? Economical? Has anybody answered that question or, for that matter, *asked* it in the first place?

And, if the cause is clear, how to solve the problem? Neither the market(s) nor governments seem to have *done* anything concrete, so far.

I have a hunch that it will get (a lot) worse before it gets better...