Recent IPv4 Depletion Events

Those of you who follow these things can’t have missed that the RIPE NCC had got down to it’s last /8 of unallocated IPv4 space last week.

They even made a cake to celebrate…

Photo (and cake?) by Rumy Spratley-Kanis

This means the RIPE NCC are down to their last 16 million IPv4 IP addresses, and they can’t get another big block allocated to them, because there aren’t any more to give out.

Now, scoffing aside from those of you who have already got v6 deployed (groan!), the net effect of this is that if you go to the RIPE NCC now and ask for more IPv4 addresses, they will only give you a /22 (1024 addresses, potentially fewer for hosts, depending on how you chop it up) maximum, you can only ever get one /22 assigned from 185/8, and you have to show the NCC that you are already deploying IPv6 or can demonstrate firm plans to do so.

(Question is, did those in the NCC office only get a /22’s worth of the cake, did those who enjoyed the cake have to show plans to deploy Cakev6, and were there seconds in the end?)

Networks need to be deploying IPv6, which is the replacement addressing system that has enough addresses to go round, as long as you don’t want to give unique addresses to all the grains of sand on the planet, and only want to give them to your fridge, your toaster, your TV, and countless other gadgets (what’s commonly known as the “Internet of Things“). Of course, the majority of us at home are still on IPv4, and so can’t put our ice-cube machines and wine fridges online, because many of our ISPs haven’t done the work needed. I’m not talking the little guys here either – in fact, they seem more likely to be rolling out IPv6 as standard, helped by their smaller size – but the big guys such as Virgin Media, for whom this seems a huge project, but one which won’t go away if they want to keep growing their business.

It’s not like we’ve not known this is coming either. IPv6 isn’t new. It’s already over 15 years old! I remember having a tunneled IPv6 connection, terminating on a linux box with a specially updated kernel and IP stack, back at the ISP I worked at back in the late 1990s.

So, this week, someone realises the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions has an allocation of 16 million IPv4 address in 51/8, which will have been made years ago, in the early days of the Internet, long before commodity Internet access and the RIPE NCC existed. They also realised that these addresses aren’t currently being routed on the global internet. (Though I do have it on good authority that these addresses are being used internally, just not advertised.)

Therefore, they decided to start a petition to the UK Government that they should sell off this /8.

Note that it’s suggested to sell it, not return it (for no income) to the IANA or RIR.

Fellow blogger Trefor Davies initially wondered if it was incomptence or ignornace on the part of the DWP, until the information came about that the resources really were in use (just not advertised into the global routing system), but never-the-less valued the /8 at between $0.5-1.5bn on the IPv4 secondary address market.

Given it’s apparently had one careful owner, not been used on the wider Internet, and therefore relatively clean, it could command the higher end of that price bracket.

Now, leaving aside the fact that it might give some short term relief to the UK taxpayer, by helping to reduce some of the national debt, this isn’t the point.

Even if the addresses weren’t in use, and could be sold, the RIPE NCC was previously issuing IPv4 addresses at a rate such that a /8 would be allocated in around 8-10 weeks.

Therefore an extra /8 is not a huge firebreak, by any stretch of the imagination, even if it might be a tidy earner.

Part of me does wonder, in the back of my mind, “if this is what we’re like over Internet addressing, what’s it going to be like when oil gets scarce?”

The real answer is to stop trying to delay the inevitable and get IPv6 deployed. For argument’s sake, can it really cost more to deploy IPv6 for most average networks than it would cost to buy a /8 on the secondary market?

Which brings me on to my closing thought. If the DWP did decide to re-architect, re-number, and deploy IPv6, just how far would the revenue from the sale of the /8 go to covering the technical consultancy bill?

Ow. Until next time…