On November 25, 2019, RIPE NCC made the final / 22 IPv4 assignment from the last remaining addresses in the available pool and officially no longer has any IPv4 addresses.
Some of the other registrars no longer had IPv4 address blocks a few years ago: APNIC – 2011, LACNIC 2014 and ARIN – 2015. The only place where public IPv4 addresses still exist is in Africa. Although the AFRINIC reserves could shortly be exhausted.
The fact that the addresses would end sooner rather than later has been known for years. Attempts to use classless inter-domain routing and network address translation technology did not solve the problem as the number of devices and virtual machines connected to the network increased exponentially.
What led to address exhaustion?
In the late 1970s, 4.5 billion people lived on our planet. At the time of the transition to TCP / IP in 1983, the choice was made in favor of 32-bit addresses. It seemed that 4.3 billion addresses were sufficient to meet the needs of the then world population.
People began to doubt it as early as the early 1990s. RFC 1287 was the first document to address address depletion. Regional Internet registrars, including AFRINIC, APNIC, ARIN, LACNIC and RIPE NCC, were established in 1992 to correct and control the IP assignment process. These organizations had to control the distribution of IP addresses. However, due to the immense growth of network users worldwide, they have not been able to change the situation drastically.
A recommendation for the development of an IPv4 successor was published in 1994, and the basic principles of IPv6 appeared a little later. From that moment, hardware and software products that support IPv6 appeared, but the new protocol acted as a backup plan. Today the proportion of the protocol is slowly increasing.
The current situation with IPv4 addresses is the result of low expectations for the growth of hosts in the global network, which are exacerbated by the proliferation of mobile devices and the inefficient initial distribution of addresses.
The difficulties in transitioning to IPv6
IPv6 has been available since 1999, but companies are in no hurry to switch to it. According to Google statistics, only about 30% of users currently access Google via IPv6. There are several reasons for this. First, IPv6 is not compatible with IPv4. Switching to IPv6 is expensive, although the actual addresses are available free of charge. The procurement of new hardware, e.g. Routers and switches as well as thorough training of the IT staff are usually required. On the contrary, the cost of maintaining the IPv4 infrastructure will only increase over time. Companies will be forced to immediately choose their upcoming strategy.
In addition to its expansion, IPv6 offers several advantages. Every data packet is now encrypted and authenticated by the integrated IPSec component of the protocol. Another advantage of IPv6 is the simplified routing, since no packets have to be fragmented.
Most operating systems are ready for IPv6. Smart devices are also ready. However, some older hardware components are not compatible with IPv6, so many ISPs must support both implementations of the protocol.
Although the number of IPv6 addresses is so high that the prospect of exhausting them currently seems unrealistic, the question of the exhaustion of future IPv6 addresses is raised at regular intervals. Even ideas for IPv9 and IPv10 appear.
It is important to note that many large organizations that have received IPv4 address blocks from registrars in the past have not actually used them. Many addresses are not used and the whole problem is their initial wasteful distribution.
Now the idle address blocks are slowly brought back into circulation. For example, Microsoft bought 667,000 Nortel IPv4 addresses in 2011 for $ 7.5 million. MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) found 14 million unused IPv4 addresses on which the organization had been sitting for 2017. Almost 8 million of them were later sold to Amazon.
In addition, new solutions for storing addresses, e.g. Reverse proxy server. Therefore, it is unlikely that IPv4 will suddenly no longer exist. The Internet as we know it continues to operate in an established paradigm.