I read the following article today and it made me think.  Hmmm…

Available IPv4 addresses dwindle below 10%

http://www.networkworld.com/news/2010/011910-ipv4-addresses-dwindle.html?hpg1=bn

The article was a good read, I’ve been watching this thing called “IPv6” for a while, but honestly,image I haven’t done any more with it than I’ve had to.  I bought the book Understanding IPv6 second Edition a while back and I’ve been trying to read it, but since there have always been more pressing issues, my progress has been slow.  I need to spend more time with IPv6, so as I figure this stuff out, I’ll try to share.  But you may be asking yourself… Why does this matter? 

Here’s one quote from the article:

Experts predict that the rest of the available IPv4 addresses will be distributed to the Regional Internet Registries in 2011.

OK, so if you’re now asking yourself, what does this really mean?  Here’s how I view it: if we don’t have any more addresses, we can’t plug anything else into the internet!

When I first learned TCP/IP and the IP address scheme, IP addresses were likened to house addresses.  Without a home address, people can’t find you and you can’t get your mail, right?  Well the same can be said for the Internet.  If you don’t have an address, not only can you not be found, but you can’t talk on the internet either.  You have to have an address to be able to use the internet. 

We still have 10% of the addresses left, we still have time, right?  There are over 4 Million addresses, 10% available is still 400,000 addresses.  We have time?  Actually, it’s predicted that within the next 24 months there won’t be any addresses available.  Some addresses get recycled, and some “reserved” addresses aren’t actually used right now, but the fact is that we have to start to change the way we manage addressing computers on the internet.

IP addresses aren’t like house addresses in the sense that if your neighborhood is full, they can extend a street and keep building houses and inventing additional addresses and street names.  I’m seeing street numbers continue to climb.  I remember when 3 or 4 digit street numbers were all I ever saw. Now, I’m seeing a lot of 5 and even 6 digit street numbers.  With IPv4 addresses we just can’t keep adding digits to our addresses.  IPv4 was designed a long time ago, back in the 1980’s (not so long ago) and of course at the time, the 4,294,967,296 addresses seemed limitless.  Actually in the early 90’s, people started realizing that the 4+ million addresses weren’t that infinite, and they stated taking steps to manage the consumption of the IPv4 addresses. 

As the article points out, the long term answer is to move to the new IPv6 address scheme.  I’ve included a link to wikipedia that will give you an overview of IPv6 here

Of course, this new IPv6 scheme is limitless… right?  Well I’m not going to be the one to say that we’ll never run out of IP addresses again <GRIN>.  But I do think it will be a very long time before we exhaust the IPv6 scheme.  Wikipedia does a good job of detailing the “size” of the IPv6 scheme:

IPv6 has a vastly larger address space than IPv4. This results from the use of a 128-bit address, whereas IPv4 uses only 32 bits. The new address space thus supports 2128 (about 3.4×1038) addresses. This expansion provides flexibility in allocating addresses and routing traffic and eliminates the primary need for network address translation (NAT), which gained widespread deployment as an effort to alleviate IPv4 address exhaustion.

While this change is happening because we are running out of IPv4 addresses, IPv6 is not just about creating “more addresses”.  IPv6 is also about a better solution for the way we’re consuming the internet.  The design of IPv6 will make it easier to manage things like VOIP, streaming video, and improving other rich content via the Internet.  Not only is it about improving the user experience, but it’s also about improving the efficiency of the Internet.  IPv6 is built to make it easier on our internet routers, and IPv6 is built with security in mind.  This is important, especially with the increase of Internet devices.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m going to be digging into IPv6 and as I encounter those “ah-ha” moments, I’ll try to share them.  What I do know right now is that the Internet will not stop working, there are plenty of migration solutions already in place, and it will only get better from here!

Until next time,

Rob