IPv4 address allocation exhausted, IPv6 adoption accelerates

The IPv4 address pool is effectively exhausted according to industry accepted indicators. The final allocations under the existing framework are now allocated, which triggers the processes for IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) to assign the final five IPv4 /8 blocks, one to each of the five regional registries. With exhaustion of the IANA pool of IPv4 addresses, no further IPv4 addresses can be issued to the regional registries that provide addresses to organizations.

IPv4 address depletion is an important milestone that has been anticipated for more than a decade, and poses a real business threat for service providers. For example, service providers need to migrate users to IPv6 once there are no new IPv4 addresses to assign to new subscribers; however, there are overwhelming amounts of legacy IPv4 infrastructure, devices, services, applications and content.

Service providers need high performance, practical and appropriate IPv4/IPv6 gateways for their networks. A10’s AX Series provides comprehensive and scalable solutions to integrate IPv4 and IPv6 that are built on top of its 64-bit Advanced Core OS (ACOS).

To handle IPv6’s larger address space and resources, and ensure forward and backward compatibility with legacy IPv4 systems, a high-performance IPv4/IPv6 gateway such as A10’s scalable 64-bit AX Series is required. IPv6 introduces a longer numbering scheme for addresses and reduces performance due to the additional processing requirements versus IPv4, resulting in devices requiring more memory resources to hold and process data.

The advent of true 64-bit platforms allows more addressable memory for the scalability and performance that IPv6 requires. These platforms were designed from inception for IPv6, ensuring performance is not lost through inefficient code or development shortcuts to address legacy design issues. Web properties and enterprises have started to implement IPv6.

Many organizations believe that to solve the IPv4 exhaustion problem they need very expensive core routers, but there are cost-effective, high-performance alternatives with solutions such as Large Scale NAT (LSN, also known as Carrier Grade NAT – CGN), Dual-Stack Lite, NAT64, full native IPv6 support, IPv4/IPv6 server load balancing and translation and more.

The IANA IPv4 depletion is an important milestone that shows justification for the ramp of activity I am seeing in the various IPv4 preservation and IPv6 migration technologies. However, with addresses still available from regional authorities and service providers, the ‘IPv4 pinch’ may not be felt for some time. The notion of IPv6 networks being the primary protocol over today’s IPv4 networks is on the horizon. The day of IPv6 networks having to support legacy IPv4 networks is not a question of if, but when.

I believe that IPv4 and IPv6 will co-exist until at least 2020, requiring high-performance solutions to translate between the two protocols and aid in seamless protocol migration and preservation strategies. The world’s first carrier IPv6 deployments and also major IPv6 enabled web sites are now live and in production.

Lee Chen is Founder and CEO of A10 Networks. Lee served most recently as co-founder and vice president of engineering at Foundry Networks. Lee was also a founding member of Centillion Networks (acquired by Nortel). He has held management and senior technical positions at Apple Computer, Convergent Technologies and InSync Group. He holds an M.S.E.E. from San Jose State University and a B.S. in Electrophysics from National Chiao-Tung University in Taiwan.