According to reports on /. and a Chinese publication, the IPv4 address space will be exhausted in 830 days. As you can see here, there are other calculations that show even more alarming numbers. A report that is updated daily can be found at potaroo.net; that shows November 2, 2011 as the day the last “old” IP address is used.

Fortunately, the article mentions that a brand-new protocol has been developed to fix this:

Li says that a new IPv6 network address, which is a basic network resource without these limitations, has been developed in America, but this kind of IP address is only used among educational websites in China. To use the IPv6 network address, network operators need to spend a lot of time and money on equipment updating.

This sounds like a new thing, but IPv6 has been around for over 10 years. ISP’s and other networking professionals have been telling each other that we need to move to IPv6 “soon” for a while now, but the actual amount of traffic using IPv6 is quite low. Recent numbers show that the volume of IPv6 traffic is about 0.5% of IPv4, so we’re not quite there yet. So why is this proceeding so slowly?

  • First, there is no reason for business or ISP’s to start the transition. Using IPv6 is not cheaper, and upgrading all your networking equipment and configurations to support both IPv4 and IPv6 so you can connect to each site on the internet costs a lot of money, while providing no competitive advantage at all. 
  • Second, there are (almost) no sites that are IPv6-only; so users can reach every site on the internet without having to find an ISP that gives them IPv6 access.

This means that we have a classic chicken-and-egg problem, and there is no solution in sight. Geoff Huston sums this up in the following paragraph:

The more general observation is that, at the current point in time, for the service provider industry, IPv6 has all the negative properties of revenue margin erosion with no immediate positive offsets. This observation lies at the heart of why the service provider industry has been so resistant to the call for widespread deployment of IPv6 services to date.

So will we have more IPv6 enables users and servers on the internet in 2010? I’m sure we will, but we’ll still face a lack of addresses by that time. The only question is what will happen then; my guess is that we’ll see a new market for IPv4 address space that was assigned to companies but is currently unused. That should keep us going for years; more than 40% of the address space that is currently assigned to companies is not used on the internet yet.