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ARIN heads off IP address land grab

IPv4 depletion: T minus 2 years

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Older types of internet protocol addresses are about to get harder to come by - at least in North America.

Starting in mid May, the non-profit group that allocates IP numbers in the US, Canada, and surrounding areas will require customers to submit an "attestation of accuracy" when applying for older, version 4 forms of addresses. The document is designed to ensure that the few remaining IPv4 numbers go to those who truly need them.

"At the current rate of consumption, IPv4 will be depleted within the next two years," John Curran, chairman of the American Registry for Internet Numbers, wrote in a letter (PDF) sent to customer CEOs over the past couple of weeks. "After that, organizations that need additional IP addresses will need to adopt IPv6, a newer version of the internet protocol that provides a much larger pool of address space."

Rumors of the IPv4's imminent exhaustion have been around for more than a decade, but so far, the transition to IPv6 has remained spotty. Large companies such as Google and internet hosts and backbone providers have generally already made the switch. For the most part, the sticking point is with end users who rely on a wide variety of applications that may be crippled by networks that use only IPv6.

As a result, ARIN customers, who pay flat fees for IP address space, may be motivated to snatch up as many of the older IP addresses while they still can.

"It's kind of like you're paying the water company a flat rate and you're not using half of it," said Anton Kapela, director of special projects at Voxel.net, a content distribution and internet hosting company. Customers reckon, "Well, lets start storing it in buckets. Maybe it'll be gone next year."

ARIN has long kept detailed records on the IPv4 address allocations of its customers and requires customers making new applications to show why they need more, Kapela said. ARIN is considerably less stingy when doling out IPv6 numbers, he added.

That's because of the virtually unlimited number of addresses included in the IPv6 pool. A single customer allocation from Arin is enough to support more than 4 billion versions of today's internet (not the the entire volume as written in a previous version of this article). ®

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