IPv4 addresses are almost out of stock. This isn't the first time somebody rang a bell about it, but now the situation is getting desperate. According to reputable institutions and individuals, within the first quarter of 2011, we could run completely out of IPv4 addresses.

The news that current addressing scheme (i.e. IPv4) will soon reach its maximum capacity is not new, in fact, there have been warnings for quite some time. But the news is still bound to cause a lot of turmoil. Although it doesn't mean the end of the internet, it will leave new users without an IP address. No IP address means no Internet connection, so what is the solution? 

IPv4 Isn't Oil -- How Can We Run Out of Stock?

The IPv4 Address Report is one of the sites where the availability of IPv4 addresses is reported daily. Their Nov 16th report states that the IANA pool of unallocated IPv4 addresses will exhaust on March 13th, 2011 and that the unallocated addresses equal to only 4 percent of all addresses. 

When you hear warnings all the time and disaster doesn't strike, you don't believe in such warnings anymore. Remember the Y2K? Did disaster strike then? No, it didn't, mainly because everybody was too scared to neglect the warning and did what they were supposed to do in order to make their system compliant.

The situation with IPv4 is similar -- if we don't do what we need to do in order to avoid disaster, it will strike. In fact, measures have been taken long ago. When the limitations of IPv4 became clear, an “upgrade” -- the so-called IPv6 -- was developed. However, in past decades, not much has been done in order to push the implementation of IPv6 by companies and individuals.

Learning Opportunities

The Frenemies IPv4 and IPv6

IPv6 is the enhanced version of IPv4 and it will provide trillions upon trillions of addresses. That's a large number, and it looks like the pool of addresses will never be exhausted (at least not in our lifetime). However, when IPv4 was introduced, it looked like 4.3 billion addresses would be much more than what would ever be needed as well. Luckily, with IPv6 addresses, it will take decades to run out of stock.

Since IPv6 is the solution, you are probably wondering why it hasn't been implemented on a large scale. To put it simply, the switch to IPv6 will take time -- a lot of time -- effort and money. When we are pressed by the lack of IPv4 addresses however, we'll have to speed up the implementation of IPv6. The introduction of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) was also expected to be full of troubles but fortunately, it all went smoothly.

Sooner or later IPv6 will be adopted whether we like it or not. The adoption of IPv6 doesn't necessarily mean that IPv4 addresses will be trashed, because there is really no need to. In fact, you can run IPv4 and IPv6 together, so if you are worried about the change, don't be, it won't be that dramatic.