RIPE NCC, which allocates IP addresses in Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia, has started to hand out IPv4 addresses from the last block that it holds, the organisation said on Friday.
The block includes about 16.8 million addresses. Including a group saved for "unforeseen circumstances," RIPE NCC (Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre) had 17.3 million addresses left as of 16 September.
That may sound like a lot, but the number of addresses available was 20.8 million just 12 days prior, so the organisation has a sense of urgency.
"It's the end of an era, and also the beginning of the next stage in Internet history," said Axel Pawlik, managing director at RIPE NCC in a blog post.
RIPE NCC is the second of the world's five Regional Internet Registries to get to its last block of IPv4 addresses. The first to do so was APNIC (Asia-Pacific Network Information Center) on April 15, 2011. As addresses run out, APNIC has pursued a conservative policy, delegating only 9 percent of its last block, it said in a blog post on Monday.
ARIN (American Registry for Internet Numbers) is expected to start handing out its last block of IPv4 addresses next June.
RIPE NCC will also be very conservative when it comes to handing out its last addresses, so that they last for years. Each so-called LIR (Local Internet Registry), which includes operators, can get another 1,024 IPv4 addresses from RIPE NCC. But only if they can justify the need for them. Also, the IPv4 addresses will only be awarded to LIRs that have already received an IPv6 allocation.
With two regions now delegating from their last block of addresses, the need for a move to IPv6 is bigger then ever, according to APNIC. Carriers, network operators and enterprise IT business leaders must understand the urgent need to deploy IPv6 on their networks to ensure that Internet access is available to everyone, RIPE NCC said.
The move to IPv6 adds an almost infinite number (3.4 multiplied by 10 to the 38th power) of addresses compared to the approximately 4 billion available using IPv4, thanks to a 128-bit address field, compared to the 32 bits used by version 4, according to the World IPv6 launch website.
To help usher in the era of IPv6, RIPE NCC staff has travelled the globe to urge governments and network operators to deploy IPv6 sooner rather than later, according to Pawlik's blog post.
The organisation offers training to all members and is also doing roadshows with APNIC and MENOG (Middle East Network Operators Group). In addition, the IPv6 Act Now website has a wealth of information for everyone from small businesses to governments.
On June 6, RIPE NCC also took part in the World IPv6 Launch event, which resulted in IPv6 traffic growing from 0.06 percent to almost 0.15 percent of all Internet traffic, according to Arbor Networks.
While that was considered a success, it also shows how far IPv6 has to go.
There any many reasons for this, but the most common reason is that time and money needs to be invested in deploying IPv6 on existing networks and on training, Pawlik said via email.
However, it now has become time to make room for training and lab equipment in the budget, as well as time, according to Jörgen Eriksson, project manager for IPv6 at .SE, the organisation in charge of the Swedish top domain.
"It is no longer possible to just turn a blind eye, since we now have hit the wall we have talked about for such a long time," said Eriksson.
The scarcity of IPv4 addresses has resulted in a market for buying and selling them. The amount of money that operators and other entities are willing to pay for IP addresses usually isn't detailed. But last year Microsoft paid Nortel US$7.5 million for 666,624 IPv4 addresses, or $11.25 a piece.
"We are going to see more of that because there are those that just need more addresses," said Eriksson, who calls the sale of IPv4 addresses "a necessary evil", but hopes it will help spur the roll out of IPv6.