Scramble for IPv6 begins as Europe depletes IPv4 URLs

The inevitable exhaustion of IPv4 addresses is drawing nearer, and organizations must start moving to IPv6

Just four months after the 2012 World IPv6 Launch Day, RIPE NCC -- the RIR (Regional Internet Registry) for Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Central Asia -- has announced that it has distributed its last available blocks of IPv4 address space, urging that "it is now imperative that all stakeholders deploy IPv6 on their networks to ensure the continuity of their online operations and the future growth of the Internet."

RIPE's exhaustion of the IPv4 addresses means that moving forward, "each LIR (Local Internet Registry) can receive only one /22 (1,024 IPv4 addresses) upon application for IPv4 resources," according to RIPE. "In order to obtain this /22 allocation, the LIR must already have an IPv6 allocation. No new IPv4 PI (Provider Independent) space will be assigned."

RIPE's depletion of IPv4 addresses yet again accentuates the urgency of enterprises and service providers to migrate to IPv6, the latest version of the protocol, which has been available for more than a decade and allows for an almost unlimited number of addresses (among other advantages of IPv4). Once all the IPv4 addresses are taken, new hosts on the Internet will not be able to communicate with systems that use only IPv4 without special mechanisms that could degrade the Internet experience.

As far back in 2010, the NRO (Number Resources Organization) warned that the exhaustion of IPv4 addresses was months away. "It is critical that all Internet stakeholders take definitive action now to ensure the timely adoption of IPv6," said Axel Pawlik, NRO chairman, in a statement.

Since that time, the world supply of IPv4 addresses has officially been exhausted, as of February of last year. Since then, APNIC, the distributor of IP addresses in the Asia-Pacific region, has run out of addresses. The three remaining RIRs -- AfriNIC (which serves Africa), LACNIC (Latin America and the Caribbean), and ARIN (North America) -- all have enough IPv4 addresses to last for at least two more years, according to Ars Technica.

Experts working on the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 have assured users that they aren't likely to be cut off from either websites or Web viewers for quite some time, at least. Transitional techniques to make the two systems coexist won't seriously degrade Internet performance for a while, so organizations still have time to prepare.

Organizations should approach the transition to IPv6 with care, however, per VeriSign Chief Security Officer Danny McPherson: "If network operators don't properly manage IPv6 -- and recognize that it's enabled 'out of the box' in most devices today, this will have a substantial impact of their security posture. One of the biggest but arguably easiest-to-remedy pitfalls is that an increasing array of networking equipment and end systems today are shipped with IPv6 enabled by default," he cautioned on IPv6 Launch Day last June.

The problem is not all the network management tools offer the same feature features and functionality for IPv6 as they do for IPv4. "This lack of feature parity means that security teams do not have the same visibility and mitigation capabilities when trying to identify and block IPv6-based attacks against targets," said Arbor Networks senior software QA engineer Bill Cerveny.

Also of note: Cyber criminals have already started launching DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks against networks running IPv6.

This story, "Scramble for IPv6 begins as Europe depletes IPv4 URLs," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.


Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.