IP registry goes to Defcon 1 as IPv4 doomsday nears

APNIC activates draconian rationing

The provider of IP addresses to the Asia Pacific region has activated a major change in the way it allocates them after becoming the first registry to deplete its number of older addresses to fewer than 17 million.

APNIC said the depletion of all but its final /8 block of addresses was a “key turning point in IPv4 exhaustion” meant that it was no longer able to meet current demand for the older addresses. As a result, the registry has immediately instituted a draconian rationing plan that will limit both the number of IPs issued and the organizations that are eligible to receive them.

Under the new policy, established organizations may receive new numbers for the sole purpose of helping them transition to IPv6, the net's next-generation addressing scheme. And even then, organizations will be eligible to get no more than a /22 block, which comes out to just 1,024 new addresses. New entrants to the internet industry will still be able to receive IPv4 addresses to use natively, but they'll be subject to the same /22-block cap.

“Agreed on by the Asia Pacific internet community, the Final /8 Policy conserves the remaining IPv4 address blocks to support the region’s transition to IPv6,” APNIC officials wrote in a release (PDF here). “Without that block of IPv4 space, new network operators would find it difficult, or impossible, to connect to the internet, even with large IPv6 address allocations available from APNIC.”

The move comes two months after the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority depleted its remaining pool of IPv4 addresses by dividing it up among the various regional registries. Under that move, APNIC received two /8 blocks, suggesting that the Asia Pacific registry has burned up at least 16 million addresses in just eight weeks.

The 32-bit IPv4 system yields some 4 billion unique addresses, a number that seemed large enough when the internet was conceived. With the advent of smartphones and internet-connected security cameras, cars, and other everyday devices, the depletion of older addresses has been forecast for more than a decade. The road to the newer IPv6 system is paved with pain for IT administrators and the end users who depend on them. That in turn has prompted widespread reluctance and procrastination in making the transition.

Already, the pain of APNIC's rationing is being felt. Chinanet Fujian Province Network on Thursday received almost 500,000 IP addresses that were spread into 1,102 separate prefixes. Organizations prefer to have large blocks in as few prefixes as possible so the addresses are easier to organize and identify.

The shortage recently forced Microsoft to spend $7.5 million for 666,624 addresses, which the company purchased from Nortel. ®

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