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IP addresses are running out

05-14-2010 09:33 BJT

BEIJING, May 13 (Xinhuanet) -- The Internet is running out of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and in less than 18 months it is estimated there will be no more blocks of net addresses to hand out. Some predictions suggest the 9th September 2011 as the date on which the last of those tranches is released for net firms and others to use.

All sites and web-based services need an "IP address" to ensure data reaches the right person or correct device. The Internet is built around version four of the Internet Protocol addressing scheme (IPv4), which has space for about four billion addresses. Its successor, known as IPv6, has trillions available. While four billion addresses was enough in the 1970s when the net was in its infancy, the growth of the Internet is rapidly depleting this store.

Such growth means that only about 7 percent of these addresses, roughly 300 million, are left to allocate. This entire pool is expected to be depleted in April 2012. While IPv6 would solve the problem, many firms and countries are slow to switch, experts warn.

In May, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which oversees the net address space, handed over two of the big chunks of remaining addresses. The removal of these 17 million addresses from the global pool meant that the date on which there will be no more big chunks left jumped forward.

"This whole business of forecasting depletion involves a little bit of reading the tea leaves," said Axel Pawlik, managing director of Ripe NCC, which hands out IP addresses in Europe. "Ten years ago we said it would happen far in the future," Pawlick said, "Now we are all running around with iPhones, we're in that future."

To counter the problem restrictions are already being put in place. Trefor Davies, chief technology officer at business ISP Timico, said rationing of the remaining IPv4 addresses was being implemented. "You cannot just ask for more IP addresses," he said. "You have to prove you need them."

There are also problems when the switch to IPv6 is made. While IPv4 and IPv6 can exist side by side, anecdotal evidence suggests it is not a trouble-free union, Davies said. The process of translating one address into the format of another introduces a significant delay. "It adds quite a lot of latency onto people accessing your network because it has to go through network address translation," Davies said.

Despite a significant growth in requests for IPv6 addresses over the last few months, few were actually being used. "What we are not seeing yet is those IPv6 addresses being used on the internet," Pawlick from Ripe said. It is estimated that less than 1 percent of the net's top one million websites run IPv6. Some statistics suggests that only 6 percent of the networks that form the net use IPv6. China is one of the biggest users of the new addressing scheme in order to cope with its ever growing number of Internet users.

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Editor:Zheng Limin |Source: Xinhua

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