The Internet is running out of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, used by computers to communicate.
The Amsterdam-based Number Resource Organization (NRO), official representative of the five regional registries that oversee the allocation of all Internet number resources, announced on Tuesday that less than 10 per cent of available IPv4 addresses remained unallocated. (V4 IP addresses consist of four sets of numbers separated by colons, which serve as a unique identification for computers on networks.)
The remaining small pool of the existing IP addresses marks a critical moment in IPv4 address exhaustion, ultimately impacting the future network operations of all businesses and organisations around the globe.
NRO chairman Axel Pawlik said in an official release that it was vital for the Internet community to shift to a new addressing scheme using six sets of numbers (IPv6), and called for determined action to ensure global adoption of IPv6.
“The limited IPv4 addresses will not allow us enough resources to achieve the ambitions we all hold for global Internet access. The deployment of IPv6 is a key infrastructure development that will enable the network to support the billions of people and devices that connect in the coming years,” Mr. Pawlik said.
Internet Protocol is a set of technical rules that defines how devices communicate over a network. Of the two versions of IP addresses, IPv6 includes a modern numbering system that provides a much larger address pool than IPv4. With so few IPv4 addresses remaining, the NRO is urging all Internet stakeholders, including governments, vendors, enterprises, telecoms operators, and end users, to take immediate action by planning for the necessary investments required to deploy IPv6, says the release. The NRO specifically asks the business sector to provide IPv6-capable services and platforms, including web hosting and equipment, ensuring accessibility for IPv6 users. Software and hardware vendors should implement IPv6 support in their products to guarantee that they are available at production standard when needed. Governments should lead the way by making their own content and services available over IPv6 and encouraging IPv6 deployment efforts in their countries. IPv6 requirements in government procurement policies are critical at this time. Civil society, including organisations and end users, should request that all services they receive from their ISPs and vendors are IPv6-ready, to build demand and ensure competitive availability of IPv6 services in coming years.
The NRO, alongside each regional registry, has actively promoted IPv6 deployment for several years through grass-roots outreach, speaking engagements, conferences and media outreach. To date, their combined efforts have yielded positive results in the call to action for the adoption of IPv6.
“Many decision makers don’t realise how many devices require IP addresses — mobile phones, laptops, servers, routers, the list goes on,” said NRO secretary Raul Echeberria. “The number of available IPv4 addresses is shrinking rapidly, and if the global Internet community fails to recognise this, it will face grave consequences in the very near future. As such, the NRO is working to educate everyone, from network operators to top executives and government representatives, about the importance of IPv6 adoption.”
IP addresses are allocated by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), a contract operated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). IANA distributes IP addresses to regional registries, which, in turn, issue them to users in their regions.