Sound the death knell for IPv4

2011 marks the death of Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) but companies and ISPs are largely yet to deploy its successor, IPv6. James Hutchinson looks at the state of the market and what is holding the new protocol back.

Internode's John Lindsay

Internode's John Lindsay

2011 marks the death of Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) but companies and ISPs are largely yet to deploy its successor, IPv6. James Hutchinson looks at the state of the market and what is holding the new protocol back.

The apocalypse is here; the 4.3 billion unique client addresses once made available by Vinton Cerf and the founders of the internet in 1977 are rapidly disappearing.

At time of writing, the global internet registry, Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, is depleting its last allocation of IPv4 addresses with final stock expected to go by February.

Asia Pacific regional internet registry APNIC is the next victim. Its cache of 32 million remaining addresses will be halved by August. Proposed policy indicates the final 16 million addresses will be selectively distributed only to member organisations which have a “viable IPv6 deployment strategy”; a last-ditch measure to delay the death of a standard the world has outgrown.

Much of this growth has been attributed to China and South Korea, two of the fastest growing internet economies. Australia isn’t far behind though; with 9.6 million addresses distributed in 2010, it ranks fifth in speed, due to the influx of iPhones, iPads and competing mobile devices.

Each new device requires a unique address to access the internet, and there is simply not enough to go around.

Yet, none of this is particularly new. IPv4 address exhaustion was first identified in the 1980s and a task force established in 1990 was tasked with discovering a fix. The protocol’s alternative and ultimate successor, IPv6, has been available for adoption since 1998.

But just under 13 years later, APNIC research indicates that only four per cent of end-user client devices surveyed in recent months would use IPv6 if forced by a compatible website or server. In a dual stack environment — where both IPv4 and IPv6 are available — only some 0.2 per cent of those devices would opt for the newer, and most current, protocol.

So why has no one made the switch?

Next: Beating the flood

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