It’s history: The IPv4 warehouse is empty

IANA distributes the last 5 blocks of addresses, opening the way for IPv6

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority formally announced final distribution of IPv4 addresses today, marking a critical turning point in the Internet’s history. The next major distribution of addresses will come from the next generation of Internet Protocols, IPv6.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Number Resource Organization, the Internet Architecture Board, and the Internet Society announced the distribution at a news conference in Miami.

The move was expected after IANA, an arm of ICANN, distributed two blocks to the regional Internet registry for the Asia-Pacific region earlier this week, leaving IANA with five slash-eight blocks. ICANN's plan all along was to distribute the last five blocks to the five regional registries.

Despite the distribution, there are still plenty of unused IPv4 addresses in the hands of the regional registries, service providers and other organizations. The U.S. government reportedly has a large supply.

Essentially, the warehouse is empty, but the stores still have plenty in stock.


Related coverage:

IPv4: The final farewell begins

Don’t panic: IPv4 address depletion is not a crisis

A (relatively) safe way of moving to IPv6


Nevertheless, the distribution is significant because it heralds the shift to IPv6, with its nearly infinite number of addresses, capability for new features and attendant security challenges.

The Obama administration has given agencies guidelines and deadlines for preparing their networks for IPv6. Although some progress has been made, overall adoption has been slow, and few organizations are using IPv6. The Office of Management and Budget has ordered civilian agencies to prepare public-facing servers and services for IPv6 traffic by the end of fiscal 2012, and agencies must have internal IP applications and systems ready by the end of fiscal 2014.

In announcing the final distribution of IPv4 addresses, ICANN officials noted the historic significance but assured reporters that it does not represent the IPocalypse.

“This is a major turning point in the ongoing development of the Internet,” ICANN President and CEO Rod Beckstrom said. “No one was caught off guard by this. The Internet technical community has been planning for IPv4 depletion for some time. But it means the adoption of IPv6 is now of paramount importance since it will allow the Internet to continue its amazing growth and foster the global innovation we’ve all come to expect.”

The IPv6 infrastructure will get a big test in June when the Internet Society holds World IPv6 Day. On that day, a group of some of the largest Internet traffic generators will use IPv6 connections in an experiment to see how it works on a large scale.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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