APNIC IPv4 allocation signals change in tack

Global internet registry hands out last two IPv4 "general use" blocks, set to allocate last five next week

After years of speculation around timing of what has been referred to as the “IPocalypse”, the internet protocol version 4 (IPv4) standard address stock has been exhausted.

Australia’s regional registry, the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), acknowledged this morning that it had been allocated the final two /8 blocks of “general use” IPv4 stock - equating to approximately 33.6 million unique addresses - by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) on 1 February 2011.

“Reachability and routability testing of the new prefixes will commence soon,” an information notice from the regional registry reads.

The allocation triggers the automatic allocation of the final five blocks of IPv4 addresses by IANA to each of the five regional registries sometime this month.

It is an event APNIC chief scientist, Geoff Huston, has suggested could occur at one of the global meetings scheduled during February, potentially the V6 World Congress scheduled next week in Paris which will see members of the global and regional registries meet together.

IANA was contacted for clarification but did not respond at time of writing.

The allocation also signals the death of a protocol developed for the original Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) by Vint Cerf and others during the 1970s. When first developed, Cerf chose 4.3 billion addresses as the maximum amount of addresses when experimenting with the protocol, a choice he has since taken responsibility for.

APNIC expects allocations under the last two standard blocks to continue for up to six months. The final five blocks will be handled under altered policies which, under most existing protocols, means each /8 block will be divided into /22s - or 1024 addresses each - and allocated to businesses and providers as necessary.

Discussion among IPv6 and regional registry working groups have proposed policies dictating those allocated the final addresses must have a viable IPv6 migration procedure, however, no such policy has been adopted yet by any of the registries.

A scheduled meeting of APNIC members in Hong Kong later in the month will include further discussion about potential policy changes.

“These policies are all about reflecting a general industry consensus, so the original policy as we’re operating on now, was adopted by a general consensus of folk a couple of years ago,” Huston told Computerworld Australia following APNIC’s announcement.

APNIC used the allocation notification to further stress the need for migration to IPv6, which is expected to last the internet for decades. With 250 million IPv4 addresses consumed during 2010 and few providers publicly trialling or implementing IPv6 migration patterns, Huston said the transition to the new protocol will not happen as smoothly as originally intended.

“This is certainly an unforeseen situation,” he said. “Industry has now decided by its very actions that we’re going to do a dual stack transition without a plentiful supply of v4 addresses. That’s really hard.

“Right the way through IPv6, in almost every part we’ve tried to engineer a protocol that doesn’t have scarcity. So the blocks that folk get are enormous, the blocks that end customers get are intentionally enormous. Every part of v6 sort of splashes around addresses like they were confetti.”

IPv6 address allocation policies are also in high levels of discussion among regional registry working groups, with the intention that providers will be able to fit their entire customer base in a single allocation.

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