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Geek Summer Camp: Infoblox’s Cricket Liu on the IPv6 situation

The following is a guest post from Geek Summer Camp keynote Cricket Liu, Chief Infrastructure Officer at Infoblox, co-author of all of O’Reilly’s Nutshell Handbooks on DNS, and co-host of the Ask Mr. DNS podcast.

IPv6, the next-generation Internet Protocol, has something of a public relations problem.

IPv6’s raison d’être is to address the looming shortage of addresses in the current Internet Protocol, IPv4, but that shortage seems to have been looming for-just-about-ever. Development of IPv6 started way back in the early 90s and here it is twenty years later and we still have a (small) supply of IPv4 addresses in the United States.

Are we really running out of IPv4 addresses? And do we really need IPv6? Mais oui!

Part of the PR problem is that it’s tough to understand the way that IP addresses are allocated.

Cricket Liu
Infoblox’s Cricket Liu

There’s a single organization (IANA, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) that handles the allocation of the biggest blocks of IP addresses. IANA doesn’t assign those blocks directly to us normal human beings, though, or even to companies. Rather, they assign address blocks to Regional Internet Registries.

There are five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) around the world, each serving a different, well, region:

  • AFRINIC, the African Network Information Center, serves Africa.
  • APNIC, the Asia-Pacific Network Information Center, serves Asia and Oceania.
  • ARIN, the American Registry for Internet Numbers, serves the U.S. and Canada.
  • LACNIC, the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry, serves Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • RIPE NCC, the Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre, serves Europe.

These guys then assign smaller blocks of addresses to companies and other organizations.

Two of the five RIRs, APNIC and RIPE, have already run down to their last little bit of IPv4 address space, and IANA doesn’t have any more space to replenish them. And one of the three remaining RIRs (the one most important to me, ARIN) is projected to run out of IPv4 addresses in the spring of 2014, which means we’ve got about nine months of addresses left.

But what does it mean to “run out” of IPv4 addresses?

Well, it doesn’t mean that IPv4 will stop working, or that someone will come take away the IPv4 address space you already have. But it does mean that the future growth of the Internet will depend on the successful implementation of IPv6.

Let’s stop for a moment to consider the implications of that last sentence: the future growth of the Internet will depend on the successful implementation of IPv6. That’s a big deal. Here in the Silicon Valley, virtually every major company I drive past on my commute owes its livelihood, or a substantial part of it, to the Internet. Adobe. Brocade. eBay. Palo Alto Networks. Yahoo! (And of course Dyn and Infoblox, though if I drive by Dyn on my way to work, I’ve taken a wrong turn.)

Without the Internet, and without the continued growth of the Internet, economic activity would slow, not just here in California but worldwide. And worldwide economic growth is slow enough already, thank you very much.

Luckily, IPv6 is ready to go and actually has been for some time. And despite what you may have heard, it’s really not all that complicated. Let me prove it to you at Dyn’s Geek Summer Camp!

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