This is an article by Vincentas Grinius of Heficed
In 2019, those responsible for the health and smooth operation of their organisation’s data networks are facing a new, creeping threat from the depletion of IPv4 addresses. Unlike the millennium bug, however, this threat has no defined deadline, no ‘high noon’, to encourage action.
In the run up to the year 2000, the global IT industry mobilised to combat the potential threat posed by the so-called millennium bug. In 2019, those responsible for the health and smooth operation of their organisation’s data networks are facing a new, creeping threat from the depletion of IPv4 addresses. Unlike the millennium bug, however, this threat has no defined deadline, no ‘high noon’, to encourage action. Many large, international organisations are failing to plan for the potential impacts of the inevitable IPv4 shortage or their switch over to its successor IPv6 and, as a result, are sitting on their own personal timebomb that could blow up at any time.
- The key incentives for IPv6 deployment include the operational simplification that comes from removing overlapping address space from the network, the reduced costs of managing such complex networks and the safe-guarding against shocks to networking business that could arise from additional address space being unavailable at a crucial time.
- As a result, many larger enterprises, such as Microsoft, are now taking steps to turn IPv4 off, running IPv6-only within the company. In a recent blog, the company describes their heavily translated IPv4 network as “potentially fragile”, “operationally challenging”, and with regard to dual stack operations (i.e. those running IPv4 and IPv6 simultaneously) “complex”. For Microsoft, turning on dual stack operation and then turning IPv4 off is expected to reduce cost and introduce efficiencies.
- In its 2018 report on the state of IPv6 deployment, the Internet Society found that, while levels of IPv6 adoption were increasing, only 25% of all internet-connected networks advertise IPv6 connectivity. In the same report, Google reports that 49 countries deliver more than 5% of traffic over IPv6 and 24 countries whose IPv6 traffic exceeds 15%.
Moreover, there are lots of ‘jobless’ IPv4 addresses out there. This means some organisations have them but have not assigned them to any device. They may hold them because they are planning to sell them or perhaps it simply worked out that way – they acquired more resources then they needed. A quick look at the RIPE transfer list shows that there are more than 0.5 million IPv4 addresses waiting to be leased.
One final reason for the slow-down in the uptake of IPv6 may be that until recently there was no global IP addresses management resource where organisations could oversee their entire IP from a single platform.
The reasons outlined above suggest that IPv6 deployment is unlikely to fight its way to the top of any CTO’s priority list anytime soon, but the dangers posed by low IPv4 stocks should not be underestimated. This being the case, it could be argued that CIOs are the ones who should take the lead in assessing the true risk of IPv4 depletion for their organisations and find a space for IPv6 migration on the C-suite agenda.
For now though, for the majority of businesses, the timebomb looks set to keep on ticking.