Not signed in (Sign In)
  1.  (9497.1)
    Excerpt from this exaggeratedly ominous but still helpful Wired article:

    The internet has run out of room.

    Like a prairie with no more vacant land to homestead or a hip area code with no more cellphone numbers, the pool of available numeric internet addresses has been completely allocated as of Thursday (.pdf).

    With that, the frontier has closed. The internet — in its current form — is now completely colonized. All that’s left is to divide the allocated properties into ever-smaller portions, or to start trading what’s already been assigned.

    This change will have no immediate effect on ordinary people, but will eventually force any company that wants to be on the internet to reckon with a complicated and potentially expensive technology transition.

    It could also introduce widespread delays and other strange behavior into the internet at large.

    “In a sense the net’s going to get stickier,” says John Heidemann, a computer scientist at the University of Southern California who has done a survey of the distribution of internet addresses, shown above. “It’ll be harder to do things that used to be easy.”

    The shortage of addresses could eventually slow down your favorite web services, make it harder for websites to verify your identity, and complicate the design of services that depend on computer-to-computer connections, like peer-to-peer file sharing, Skype and more.

    The change is going to happen gradually, over a period of years, but it will happen, say experts who have studied the problem, and it starts today.

    “This is 100% a real issue,” says Martin J. Levy, the director of IPv6 strategy at Hurricane Electric, a provider of high-bandwidth internet data and colocation services that has been predicting the exhaustion of addresses for some time now. “We are dealing with a finite resource. We are going to run out. And we are going to have build a new system that gets around that issue.”

    “It’s not really a shortage so much as exhaustion. It’s gone,” says Kumar Reddy, a director of technical marketing at Cisco, about the address space.

    (click here to go to rest of article where implications of this and possible solutions are discussed)


    There's still some legroom to deal with all this. While the Internet Assigned Number Authority has run out of IPs, the Regional Internet Registry still has about a year left until their pool dries up. Also, IP allocations from the early days of the Internet can be reclaimed and put to proper use, but transition to IPv6 is predicted to be slow and problematic. IPv4-IPv6 cooperation will be required, as big companies are likely to resist the change for as long as possible. From what I understand (and I'm a layman in this subject), the cost of hardware upgrades is the main concern, as many older systems are not equipped for IPv6 (newer computers and devices are, such as Windows Vista and up, and iPhones, I think).

    What consequences of this problem are likely and not being sufficiently discussed at the moment?
  2.  (9497.2)
    Well, from the setup that you've given it, my immediate thought is that this is a quick and easy way to disenfranchise regions of the world with older tech from the Internet. That's kind of a big problem in my eyes; I wanted to see the next decade being the decade where the poorest (or at least some of the poor-er) people of the world were able to make their voices heard, if not listened to, via the Internet.

    It also seems like this could be a backdoor way for ISPs to charge more to let people get on the Internet, or to get around net neutrality restrictions. "Aww, IPv4 for our company is used up. Looks like you'll have to pay a v6 conversion rider, puny little customer who doesn't make us enough money to answer your calls. Too bad, so sad."

    Basically, it sounds like a company that positions itself well in the conversion politics could become an Internet gatekeeper and potentially a serious kingmaker in the field. I'm not really big on gatekeepers or kingmakers, in general.
    •  
      CommentAuthorFinagle
    • CommentTimeFeb 3rd 2011
     (9497.3)
    I've been following this for a while now (I work in tech), and there's pretty much nothing the end-user has to worry about, due to the magic of Network Address Translation (NAT). If you have a home network, chances are you use NAT - you have a number of machines with "private" IP addresses (192.168.1.x, let's say) that reside behind your actual public-facing firewall/modem/router device, which generally has a single public IP address (1.2.3.4). ISPs and other organizations also do this on a grand scale, and for the forseeable future, huge chunks of IPv4 space will live happily behind core routers that run IPv6.

    It is fairly doubtful that you'll actually encounter any of the scenarios above - you won't wake up and find that Skype gives you a busy signal, after the last IPv4 address gets handed out, and you don't have to offer to run IPv6 on your home device to save the health of the Internet or anything.

    In terms of businesses, there may be some impact in a few years. ISPs are already more reluctant to hand out additional IP addresses without justification. But again, if you are ordering a connection for your business, there's no need to hoard addresses and order more than your need, or less, or whatever. Just go about your business, we'll make more addresses when they're really needed.

    Personally, I am planning on sending a large article about this out to our customers right before April 1st, and asking all of our clients to check the tightness of their network connections to prevent IPv4 packet loss, as IPv4 packets are now a scarce resource and need to be conserved, and requesting clients return any unused IPv4 packets back to us at the end of the year for recycling.
    • CommentAuthorRenThing
    • CommentTimeFeb 3rd 2011
     (9497.4)
    You're a mean and brilliant person, Finagle.
  3.  (9497.5)
    In terms of businesses, there may be some impact in a few years. ISPs are already more reluctant to hand out additional IP addresses without justification.

    I'm sure that businesses will find a way to pass on their annoyance to you, the consumer.
  4.  (9497.6)
    Finagle, thanks for that excellent and detailed assessment. I do, however, echo what John just said and I'm wondering how different companies might react to this, and what profitable roadblocks they could lay in the transition to IPv4 to IPv6. Do you think there could be any?
    •  
      CommentAuthorFinagle
    • CommentTimeFeb 4th 2011
     (9497.7)
    I dunno - about the worst thing I can actually think of might be some moderate price gouging for additional public IPv4 addresses in the short term. The vast majority of core ISP equipment already supports IPv6, and really it just has to be switched on. John Skylar probably has a point in that if you're a moderately-sized tech shop like we are, and have use for multiple real IP addresses (we have 10 in use), you may find yourself having to pay more than the extra $20 or so per month per IP address that a Comcast or a Verizon currently charges.

    But the practical reality of IP is that all the gory bits are hid under DNS. So long as one doesn't *care* if one has an IPv4 address and just want one's www.fobar.com domain name for one's website to work like it always has from a given web hosting company, I don't expect one would really notice much of anything.