The impending exhaustion of the IPv4 address space has been raised as an issue once more by ICANN, as it begins allocating the remaining blocks of addresses to the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs).
According to ICANN, this move signals that the global supply of IPv4 addresses is now reaching a critical level. With more and more devices coming online, especially with new trends such as the Internet of Things, the demand for IP addresses continues to rise, and IPv4 is incapable of supplying enough to meet demand, ICANN said.
The dwindling number of IPv4 addresses has been highlighted for some time, and many industry observers predicted chaos when the last tranche of numbers is finally used up.
The worst has not so far happened, partly because of techniques such as Network Address Translation, where organisations can operate thousands of nodes with private addressing schemes behind a single public IPv4 address.
However, ICANN, the non-profit organisation that coordinates the internet's global domain name system and takes care of the DNS Root and the numbering system for IP addresses, said that the IPv4 address range is now nearing total exhaustion. ICANN said it is encouraging network operators around the globe to adopt IPv6 as a solution to the problem.
The latest crisis was triggered when the Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre's supply of addresses dropped below eight million. To handle this critical drop, the policy-making communities of the five RIRs have established a policy for equal redistribution of the remaining address blocks by ICANN.
"We are grateful for the guidance we've received from the RIRs as the number of unallocated IPv4 addresses dwindles," said Elise Gerich, vice president of technical operations at ICANN.
"This redistribution of the small pool of IPv4 addresses held by us ensures that every region receives an equal number of addresses while we continue to work with the community to raise support for IPv6."
However, while IPv6 supports a vastly larger address space, it is a separate protocol which means that devices supporting IPv4 and IPv6 cannot directly communicate with each other, complicating the transition to the newer standard.
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