Is The Internet Running Out Of IPv4 Addresses?

IPv4 DepletionEarlier this year, we entered a new phase of the IPv4 countdown plan. Phase 4 is the last stage, and as things stand, we have less than 17 million IPv4 addresses remaining unused. That’s not going to last long, especially given the explosion of mobile devices and ever expanding Internet of Things. Some services are already having difficulty finding sufficient, including Microsoft’s cloud platform, which has occasionally run out of US-based IPv4 addresses. IPv6 is waiting in the wings to take over, but adoption has been slow.

So, are we reaching crunch time? Is the Internet going to be thrown in disarray, and are site owners going to have difficulties getting their hands on ever rarer addresses?

Probably not. Or at least not in the immediate future. IPv4 is reaching the end of its useful life, but there are huge numbers of unused addresses that were distributed in the early days of the web to governments and corporations that could be taken back and redeployed. NAT is a powerful technology that has been long used to reduce the number of Internet-facing IP addresses that are used, and will continue to do so. We’re fine for a while yet, but we should think of the time we have as breathing room to make the transition rather than as an excuse for complacency.

But, if you haven’t already started, now’s the time to think seriously about transitioning to IPv6. Because IPv4 and IPv6 are incompatible, and much of the Internet’s underlying hardware doesn’t support the newer protocol, the transition has been slow, but it will start to accelerate in the coming years as companies realize that they can’t avoid biting the bullet forever.

Address exhaustion isn’t the only reason to make the move from IPv4 to IPv6. The architects of the newer protocol learned lessons from the limitations of the earlier protocol and implemented a number of features that makes IPv6 worthwhile on its own merits.

IPv6 includes enhancements including more efficient packet processing, multicast data flows, simplified network configuration, support for new services, and built-in IPSec, a significant security boost. All of which can have improve the performance, efficiency, and security of web hosting and cloud hosting platforms, which is why Cirrus Hosting is among the first providers in Canada to roll out IPv6 support across all of our hosting services.

Although IPv4 will be around for a while yet, we feel that giving clients the option to use IPv6 will help them better manage their transition to a protocol that’s more suitable to the Internet of today.

Image: Flickr/graymlkn