ARIN, the American Registry for Internet Numbers is expected to use up all of the remaining IPv4 addresses by the end of the month. Basically, the Internet is running out of space. Time to panic? Not quite. But before I discuss the impact of this development, let us take a look at IP addressing itself.
To better understand Internet Protocol, think about how a mailing system works. Here are some points of comparison:
- Every device, website, database, email address, etc. has a unique IP address, just like your house has a mailing address different from everyone else’s. Under our current system, IP addresses are made up of 32 digits called “bits.” These bits are condensed into four groups of eight, each of which is converted into a decimal, giving you a familiar address like 126.96.36.199.
- This address allows your computer, for example, to exchange information and connect with other devices or websites.
- ARIN functions much like US Postal Service in that it distributes available IP addresses. Internet service providers and databases work with ARIN and then redistribute IP addresses to their customers.
Right now, we use IPv4, which has remained relatively unchanged since the birth of the Internet in the 80s. Understandably, the system does not compensate for our plugged-in lifestyle of 2015. Today, many individuals have multiple devices, each device with at least one IP address. It is not surprising that we are close to using up the four billion addresses that this version provides.
ARIN is currently in the final phases of depleting its IP inventory for North America and is expected to completely run out in about a month. Because there are fewer IPv4 addresses to hand out, ARIN is using various methods like address recycling and Network Address Translation to ensure maximum usage of unused addresses. They are also becoming stricter about who gets to use addresses at all. Other areas of the world have been experiencing the same crunch for years. The Asia Pacific region depleted its own inventory in 2011, Europe and the Middle East in 2012, and Latin America in 2014. So… what now?
Internet service providers are very slowly transitioning to IPv6 infrastructure. IPv6 is basically a larger Internet, one where addresses have 128 bits of space instead of 32. Longer addresses allow IPv6 to provide about 3.4 x 1040 (340 trillion, trillion, trillion) different addresses.
What does this mean for your company’s website? Here are some things to keep in mind while we wait for widespread IPv6 adoption:
- ARIN is trying to maximize the use of remaining IP addresses so they are redistributing ones that are not used properly. What can you do? Find out what kind of IP address your website uses. Ask your hosting provider if it is a shared address or a dedicated one. If your address is shared, you are indirectly conserving IPv4 addresses so you should be fine.
- If you are using a dedicated address, make sure you have a current digital ID or secure certificate. If it is expired, ARIN might reallocate your IP address; so make sure to get it renewed.
- If you want to switch to an IPv6 address, there are multiple ways of acquiring one. Ask your Internet service provider about their v6 capabilities or try using an access service like Freenet6. To learn more about IPv6 and IPv6-IPv4 compatibility, check out World IPv6 Launch.