ARIN again warns of IPv4 address depletion, encourages IPv6 adoption

The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) has issued another warning regarding IPv4 address depletion and the need for members of its community to begin planning and adopting IPv6 as soon as possible.

A letter from John Curran, chairman of the ARIN Board of Trustees, states that the organization expects the IPv4 address pool to be depleted “within the next two years,” or sometime in early 2011.

ARIN’s recent warning states that its members should “begin planning for IPv6 adoption if you are not doing so already.” The warning urges its members “to make your organization’s publicly accessible resources available via IPv6 as soon as possible” to “maintain your Internet connectivity during this transition” from IPv4 to IPv6.

As one of five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) worldwide, ARIN handles the administration and allocation of Internet numbers to service providers, enterprises and other entities in the United States, Canada, and many Caribbean and North Atlantic islands. Those numbers include autonomous system numbers for backbone networks, and IPv4 and IPv6 address space. The other registries have similar concerns and have also issued policy statements.

IPv4 address depletion has been a well-known issue for more than 15 years and was the main driver for the development of the next generation of the protocol, IPv6. It has become an even hotter topic recently as the world begins to approach the exhaustion of the address space.

The actual exhaustion date has been the subject of speculation for years. The most respected statistical studies place the exhaustion of the IPv4 address pool governed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority — the parent organization of the RIRs — in late 2010. The five RIRs, which receive allocations from IANA for further assignment downstream, would see their address pools depleted throughout 2011.

Internet service providers would still have address space in their existing allocations for some time after exhausting their RIR pool but would not be able to obtain new IPv4 allocations. Eventually, that could slow the delivery of their service offerings and Internet expansion in general.

The fear of IPv4 address depletion has prompted concerns about address hoarding by service providers and other organizations that rush to obtain new allocations before the pool runs out and, in all likelihood, before they need an additional address block. Since the inception of the RIR system, tight controls have been in place to thwart such hoarding by verifying an entity’s need for new address space through a fairly rigorous application process.

ARIN officials say they intend to take additional “steps to ensure the legitimacy of all IPv4 address space requests” starting in May. New address requests must “include an attestation of accuracy from an organizational officer” to ensure that “organizations submitting legitimate requests based on documented need will have ongoing access to IPv4 address space to the maximum extent possible.”

ARIN has issued earlier warnings and resolutions, including its “Resolution of the Board of Trustees of ARIN on Internet Protocol Numbering Resource Availability” in 2007, which “directs ARIN staff to take any and all measures necessary to assure veracity of applications to ARIN for IPv4 numbering resources” and to “encourage migration to IPv6 numbering resources where possible.”

About the Author

Dan Campbell is a freelance writer with Government Computer News and the president of Millennia Systems Inc.

Reader Comments

Tue, Jun 16, 2009 Ron

Well, recently the address space application process may have been tightened, but in the early days it was aq free-for-all. Many, many organizations have allotments that are wildly excessive in terms of their usage. Huge expanses of allocated but unused IP4 space addresses exist. For example, the U.S. military alone has almost 300 million addresses! Many colleges and universities (even tiny ones) have the largest allocation (almost 17 million addresses) We are not even close to being out of IPv4 space, it the space can be reasonable reallocated. Its been allocated wastefully, and much (as much as half) of it goes unused. - Ron

Wed, May 6, 2009 Jennifer Geisler

Dan, interesting article. The increasing number of devices and the fact that more and more emerging countries are connecting to the Internet and requiring IP addresses will hopefully spur more uptake of IPv6. In many cases, these businesses will start with IPv6 and those that have IPv4 will need to communicate with them. So it is not only about our own business having sufficient v4 addresses, it is about communicating to others that may only have v6.

If you take a look at the IP addresses throughout the world today you can imagine the impending shortage as emerging countries eventually do get connected. At Cisco, we're working with various groups, customers and partners to help them ensure a smooth migration/integration with IPv6 now rather than later. The clock is certainly ticking.

Jennifer Geisler, Manager of Network Systems Networking and Switching for Cisco.

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