The Internet is running out of the IP addresses, but efforts to make the move from the current Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) system to its successor Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) continue to remain slow.
IPv4, which is used for the majority of activity on the Internet today, is capable of sustaining roughly four billion unique IP addresses, according to the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN). ARIN, one of five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) responsible for managing the distribution of IP address space around the world, oversees Canada, the United States and parts of the Caribbean and North Atlantic Islands.
"IPv4 addresses are depleting at an astounding rate. In the first half of 2010, the IANA actually allocated more IPv4 addresses to the registries than in all of 2009," said John Curran, president and CEO of ARIN. "As of August 2010, there are only about five and a half per cent of IPv4 addresses remaining."
The central Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) registry, which administers IPv4 addresses to the five RIRs, is forecasting IP address exhaustion sometime in 2011, states the Canadian Internet Registry Authority (CIRA).
“It’s a real issue,” said Byron Holland, president and CEO of CIRA. “It’s just a question of whether it is 24 months before you can’t access large pieces of the Internet or whether it is 36 months,” he said.
Holland suggests Canadian governments, organizations and end users start making efforts to move to IPv6 now. “You don’t want to be in that position where suddenly large parts of the majority of the Internet are not accessible to you because you didn’t get on board and convert,” he said.
“This is happening. There are no ifs, ands or buts,” he said.
IPv6 was developed in the mid-1990’s by a team of Internet engineers as the “ultimate replacement” for IPv4, said Alison Brooks, research director with Government Insights at IDC Canada. The protocol has been tested substantially, she said.
A key difference is that IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses, as opposed to 32-bit addresses used by IPv4. “Think of a golf ball as IPv4 and a sun as IPv6,” said Holland in a session on Canada’s network challenges at the Canada 3.0 forum in Stratford, Ont. last May.
The number of addresses available through IPv6 is roughly 3.4 followed by 38 zeros, which is enough to assign trillions of addresses, said Jennifer Austin, senior manager of communications and marketing at CIRA.
But IPv6 adoption continues to remain slow. The average global deployment rate of IPv6, according to BGPmon.net statistics from April 2010, is four per cent.