Developing economies and small ISPs are expected to be hardest hit by an Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) address rationing policy enacted this week by the Asia Pacific regional registry.
APNIC on Thursday announced the full allocation of its second last '/8' or approximately 16.7 million addresses, one of two stocks allocated to the registry by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) in February this year.
The allocation in February signalled the global registry’s exhaustion of IPv4 stocks and a countdown in which regional registries had begun to slow the business-as-usual allocation process.
The remaining addresses will be allocated to APNIC members under what is known as “phase three” of the registry’s policy, with eligible applicants receiving only a single '/22' or 1024 addresses each.
IPv4 uses 32-bit addresses and can support 4.3 billion devices connected directly to the internet. Internet protocol version 6 (IPv6), on the other hand, uses 128-bit addresses and supports a virtually unlimited number of devices -- 2 to the 128th power.
Despite talks of requiring eligible applicants under phase three to offer a viable migration strategy to IPv4 successor IPv6, APNIC chief scientist, Geoff Huston, said the final policy did not include that requirement. However, he said organisations wouldn’t have a choice either way to move to the newer protocol.
“To be quite frank, a '/22' doesn’t get you an awfully long way in terms of satisfying the next few hundred million things that get connected to the network over the coming year,” he said.
“The true message is you’ve now seen right down to the bottom of the barrel and if you want to look beyond that you have to look to v6, there’s no choice.”
In announcing the move to phase three, APNIC director-general, Paul Wilson, said the policy was designed to push the move. The association acknowledged that the policy was not meant for business-as-usual use of addresses but instead, as a transitional phase to IPv6.
"Considering the ongoing demand for IP addresses, this date effectively represents IPv4 exhaustion for many of the current operators in the Asia Pacific region," he said in a statement.
"From this day onwards, IPv6 is mandatory for building new Internet networks and services."
However, Internode network engineer, Mark Newton, pointed to developing economies and ISP start-ups as the losers in the current situation.
“The only way you can deploy a new ISP is to be v6 from day one, or have enough start-up money to buy another ISP with lots of addresses already,” he told Computerworld Australia.
“If you don’t have the resources to do that, you need to be v6 from day one but the rest of the internet isn’t going to be v6, so what are your users going to be accessing?”
Despite claims of an “IPocalypse” in coming months among several industry players, there continues to be little talk of viable migration strategies to IPv6 from carriers.
Internode is one of the few locally, with its plan to move to a final production environment for all broadband users expected to be finalised within the month.
Instead, there have been rumours of companies and service providers hoarding IPv4 stocks, either through applications to APNIC or purchasing those with a significant stock, in order to delay the inevitable.
The possibility has even led to the notion of an IPv4 black market, something APNIC is expecting to occur but hopes won’t get out of hand.
“Some addresses will get bought and sold and moved around but if I’m rolling out a network to support even next month’s requirements for broadband service, I’m in a rather difficult place in that even anything I can buy on the market won’t meet my requirements,” Huston said.
According to Newton, further trading and purchasing of stocks from other countries is likely to occur at a faster pace as a result of APNIC’s change in policy.
Developing economies, too, have been pinpointed as possible victims of the IPv4 allocation policy, as they may not have the money or technical capability to migrate to the newer protocol quickly enough.
“We are busting a gut to teach all about v6, helping developing economies as much as developed economies on v6,” Huston said. “I think we’re actually doing them a disservice by going to them and saying ‘here’s how to extend v4’.
"It’s like giving them a rotary phone switchboard and telling them ‘go have a blow’.”
Though APNIC has long been forecast to run out of its own addresses before other regional registries, initial estimates posited that it wouldn’t have to enact the policy until August this year.
Owen DeLong, an IPv6 evangelist and board member of North American registry ARIN, said the industry was shocked at how quickly APNIC had depleted its IPv4 address space.
The Asia Pacific region has been gobbling up the most IPv4 address space in recent years, with APNIC distributing more than 32 million IPv4 addresses to network operators in this region in the last two months alone.
“We got through 200 million addresses last year,” Huston said.
Most IPv4 address space is expected to be handed out by the regional Internet registries by the end of 2011.
European registry RIPE is expected to be next on the block to exhaust its stock, while ARIN predicts that it will run out of IPv4 addresses by November.
With reporting from Carolyn Duffy Marsan
Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch
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