Over the past few years, there has been plenty of talk about the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses and the need to adopt IPv6. One thing that is clear is that we will run out of space within 1–2 years, if not sooner.
How IPv4 addresses will run out
We know how IPv4 addresses will be exhausted. By policy, when there are only five remaining unallocated /8 IP blocks, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) will assign each of the five regional Internet registries (RIRs) their final IPv4 address spaces. (As of this writing, there are 16 unallocated /8 blocks.) From that point on, each registrar is on its own. This will be the first concrete indicator that we will be exhausting IPv4 space soon.
At this point, a rush to buy IPv4 space will happen. Most RIRs have between one and two /8 blocks in reserve. Service providers who want to keep IPv4 will be looking to snatch up extra space to ensure that they have room to grow. We should see IPv6 growth here, as IPv4 users watching from the sidelines will need to start moving before their services are affected.
Unfortunately, this means we should expect a full suite of related scams and frauds. These will most likely play on fears of network instability or (un)preparedness such as:
- Pay us $XXX to convert your existing IP addresses to IPv6.
- For a fee, we will guarantee that you can keep your IPv4 addresses.
There is also a potential for a gray/black market dealing in the IPv4 space. This could eventually lead to prefix hijacking. An offer to buy unused IPv4 space for a seemingly large payout may be legitimate. However, you will still be the registered owner of that block in the whois and RIR databases. Any malicious activity found there may cause you a knock on the door from a government agency.
Challenges of IPv6 migration
I expect IPv4 to be alive and well for a decade if not more. Too many legacy systems that do not face end users and work perfectly gain nothing from IPv6. Many services and service providers are not yet IPv6 capable. In addition, some long-standing issues with IPv6 keep getting kicked down the road in the hope that someone will solve them remain unsolved. These will slow the transition down. One such issue will sound very familiar to folks who have experience from the mid 1990s.
RIRs started allocating /24 blocks to end users that, in theory, they could take to any ISP (these blocks are said to be Provider Independent or PI). However, some of the larger tier 1 ISPs wouldn’t accept a route that small, forcing users to ask for IP space from the ISP (these were Provider Assigned or PA). Users were caught in a position where they had their own IP space but no way to connect to it or were using IP space from a single provider. This made it hard to create an alternate route through another provider or to get new numbers if they wanted to change service providers.
Do you have a plan to expand your operations into IPv6?