IPv4 Not Dead Yet: 625 Days of IPv4 Addresses Remain

The new year has barely started, but it’s already become apparent that at least one dire prediction about 2010 isn’t going to come to pass.

IPv4 address space will not be exhausted in 2010 as the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) had once forecast. But that doesn’t mean that network managers or even consumer electronics vendors should sit on the sidelines. This week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the American Registry for Internet Names (ARIN) is advocating that vendors start making the move to IPv6 now.

IPv4 technology uses a 32-bit address space providing capacity for 4.3 billion IP addresses. The next-generation IPv6 system has a 128-bit address space, providing a capacity orders of magnitude larger (the number of addresses IPv6 could support can be expressed as: 34 x 10 to the 38th power, or 340 trillion trillion trillion).

The timeline for IPv4 address space exhaustion may not be 2010, but it is likely to be exhausted within the next two or three years at the present rate of IP address allocation.

“We’re at about 10.2 percent (IPv4 address space) remaining globally,” John Curran, president and CEO of ARIN told InternetNews.com. “At our current trend rate we’ve got about 625 days before we will not have new IPv4 addresses available. We’re still handling IPv4 requests from ISPs, hosting companies and large users for IPv4 address space, but that’s a very short time period.”

Curran added that ARIN has sent formal notices to U.S. ISPs to let them that they’ll have to move to IPv6 for address space allocations as IPv4 is near exhaustion.

On the other hand, ARIN is also having some success in reclaiming unused IPv4 address space back from organizations that aren’t using all of their addresses.

“Some of the largest allocations of IPv4 addresses that have ever been made are held by large entities like technology companies and governments, and we’ve been in contact with them and we’ve had success,” Curran said. “We’ve had a number of universities, private companies and government agencies return unused addresses. So it is possible that we’ll see more of that and that could push out the date (of IPv4 depletion).”

That doesn’t mean that IPv4 can be saved, though. Curran noted that even if they get a large number of returns that will likely only extend the IPv4 depletion date by six months to a year, at most.

The pending depletion of IPv4 is the reason Curran is at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week, talking to vendors about the importance of migrating to IPv6.

“The goal is that ARIN is trying to get out in front and make sure that the people who are actually building the technology that consumers use are aware of the important changes that are happening with IPv6,” Curran said.

While American technology consumers may not be familiar with IPv6 on their devices, consumers in Japan are a different story. IPv6 enabled TVs have already shopped in Japan and are in use by Japanese carrier NTT. NTT has an IPv6 IPTV service called NTT Plala Hikari TV, which NTT talked about at the CES show in 2009.

“I think in the U.S. and in Europe there hasn’t been the same traction that we’ve seen in Asia for IPv6 enabled consumer electronics devices,” Doug Junkins, NTT America’s CTO and vice president of IP development, told InternetNews.com.

Junkins noted that in Asia there has long been a greater urgency in moving to IPv6, as Asian countries do not have as much IPv4 address space as the U.S.

“I don’t think it (IPv6) will be a huge issue at CES this year,” Junkins said. “Maybe next year when we’re another year closer to having IPv4 address space exhausted we’ll see more of an emphasis on the U.S. consumer electronics, but I don’t think we’re there quite yet.”

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