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IPv4 shortage – impact on ISP’s, data centers, hosting providers, and you

Author: ; Published: Apr 2, 2012; Category: Customer Support, Managed Hosting, Reseller Hosting, Small Business; Tags: ; 2 Comments

My grandmother helped a lot in raising me from a young boy into a man.  One of her idiosyncrasies was telling me frequently she was going to die soon.  That started when I was a very young boy, and by the time I was a teenager… it came across like the boy who cried wolf.

My grandmother died when I was in my thirties.  Well over twenty years of hearing her state she was going to die soon numbed me to the reality that she would die when Jesus called her until the reality hit, she died.

Those of us who work with IP addresses daily have heard about IPv4 addresses running out for well over a decade.  You soon start to think, the IPv4 shortage isn’t as bad as it is made out to be… until reality hits.

Before I write anything further, since most of you don’t work day to day with IPv4 addresses, let me go over some things.

 

Just like every business has a physical address (and potentially a mailing address), every single resource on the Internet — a web site, an email address, a database servers, etc. — has an IP address. 

There are two standards for IP addresses — IP version 4 (IPv4) and IP version 6 (IPv6). IPv4 came out first; and is widely used.  IPv6 is relatively new; and slowly being adopted.

IPv4 uses 32 binary bits to create a unique address on the network. An IPv4 address is expressed by four numbers separated by dots. Each number is the decimal (base-10) representation for an eight-digit binary (base-2) number, also called an octet. For example: 174.36.196.4 which is the IP address of dynamicnet.net.

Just like the U.S. Postal Service is responsible for giving out new mailing addresses, ARIN — American Registry for Internet Numbers– is responsible for handing out unused IP addresses in North America.  

Typically, ARIN deals directly with small to large data centers and ISP’s who require a large volume of IP addresses; and then the ISP’s and data centers will sublet the IP addresses to their customers.

Any mention of an IP address in this article is IPv4 unless specifically noted as IPv6.

 

Last February, ARIN announced that IANA has handed out their last /8′s (16 million) of IPv4 addresses.

When that happened, stricter rules went into effect for those doing business with ARIN.

ARIN now requires parties asking for additional IPv4 addresses to prove they, and their customers, are efficiently using at least 80% of their existing IP address.

In the past, Data centers and ISP’s would order a projected years worth of new IP address at a time.   Since February of last year, they are only able to order a three month supply.

Each time they ask for more IP addresses, they have to bring with them a stack of paperwork showing that previous allocations are being efficiently used; audits are involved.  Larger data centers and ISP’s are being forced to hire additional staff just to deal with the paperwork and audit requirements.

What counts as efficient use of a dedicated IP address does vary, but more and more the variance is tightening as the world gets closer to having no more unused IPv4 addresses. 

Currently, the largest data centers and ISP’s consider the only valid use of a dedicated IP address in a web hosting environment to be for a digital ID also known as a secure certificate.

Some providers, like Rackspace.com, actually require customers to have an active (non expired) secure certificate on hand for them to release a dedicated IP address to the customer.  Other providers, like SoftLayer.com, will take the time to do an audit with you to see if there’s any way to make use of previously acquired IPv4 addresses.

Does does this impact hosting providers?

Typically, the hosting provider does not have their own data center; they rely on co-location or renting servers from data centers and ISP’s.   The hosting provider receives the IP addresses they need for their customers from the same place they have their servers (some who co-locate have large enough IP address banks that they can deal directly with ARIN).

More and more when a hosting provider now goes to their data center / ISP for new IP addresses, just as the data center / ISP has to go through an audit to prove efficient use of IP addresses, so does the hosting provider.

What about the owner of a hosting site?  How does the IP shortage impact the average consumer of hosting?

Prior to the growing IP crunch, it was ok for any site to have a dedicated IP address for whatever reason. Some of the reasons used in the past are as follows (along with a “–” note as to why those reasons are no longer valid):

 

  • Be able to go directly to the address before the domain name pointed to the address — no longer needed as an alias URL can be provided by the hosting company.
  • To improve how the site is listed  in search engines — this was a myth promoted by a number of search engine optimization companies.
  • To be PCI Compliant — true if tied with a secure certificate / digital ID.

 

The average site owner should not be impacted for some time.  Hosting consumers who currently have a dedicated IP address they are not using efficiently, may — when push comes to shove — be asked to give up the IP address for someone who does have a valid use for one.

What can you do now to  help with the shortage of IPv4 addresses?

Check if you are on a shared IP address or if you are using a dedicated IP address; you can ask your hosting provider if you are not sure where to look for this information.

If you are on a shared IP, congratulations; you are helping to conserve IP addresses.

If you are on a dedicated IP address, then review how you are using it.  Do you have a secure certificate (digital ID) for https for your site?  Is it current or did it expire?  If the secure certificate is current, congratulations as you are making proper use of your dedicated IP address.  If not, then think about either renewing the secured certificate or giving back the dedicated IP address to be used by someone who really needs it.

Contact us if you have any questions.


Resources:

https://www.arin.net/resources/request/ipv4_depletion.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPv4_address_exhaustion

http://tech.slashdot.org/story/02/07/03/1352239/craig-silverstein-answers-your-google-questions – 5) Google and IP address
http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/myth-busting-virtual-hosts-vs-dedicated-ip-addresses/

Peter Abraham
Former CEO of Dynamic Net, Inc. Will be transitioning to a new career in the near future.
Peter Abraham

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Peter Abraham

2 Responses to “IPv4 shortage – impact on ISP’s, data centers, hosting providers, and you”

  1. John Curran says:

    Your recent posting about IPv4 depletion omits any discussion of the fact that major service providers are beginning to connect new customers via IPv6 (particularly overseas) and web sites that do not also have IPv6 address are going to have to be accessed via large carrier operated gateways, with corresponding security and performance impacts.

    This is why nearly every major content provider is enabling IPv6 this year: Google, Facebook, etc. See http://www.worldipv6launch.org/

    /John

    John Curran
    President and CEO
    ARIN

  2. Hi John:

    Thank you for your valuable input, and time.

    We have been pushing IPv6 support for Parallels H-Sphere (the hosting automation system our company and almost all of the managed service customers we secure and manage).

    My hope is that small businesses, who are often bound by the speed of their vendors as well as the economy and their budget, are not crushed in the move to IPv6.

    IPv6 is much needed; though there are still many layers which do not support IPv6 yet.

    Thank you.

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