Many of us probably don’t think about it at all, but every device that directly connects to the internet (not through a router) requires its own IP address. Many organizations have dedicated IPs for each of the machines that they use, especially if they’re servers that need to be available in a different location. But there are a very finite number of IP addresses available in IPv4; 255.255.255.255 (232—or 4,294,967,296), to be exact. And according to reports, we’re running out very soon – sometime this summer.
The Tale Of IPv4 And What We Do Next
IPv4 is actually pretty old and with there actually being less than 4 billion addresses that ever will/can be used and more connected devices than people on earth, it makes sense that the end is near. The reason that the actual number of available addresses is significantly lower than the number of theoretical addresses is actually pretty simple. When they were originally doled out to government agencies, universities, and businesses it was done by class. A university that received a Class A address, would receive 16,777,216 host addresses that can be used. Since it’s highly unlikely a university will ever use over 16 million IPv4 addresses, there are a significant number that can’t be reallocated, but will never be used by the owners.
The fact that we’re running out of IPv4 addresses isn’t the end of the world, however, we have a savior and its name is IPv6. IPv6 is 128 bits to IPv4’s 32 bit system, which means trillions of addresses vs a little over 4 billion. The only problem is that only 9% of of the web has made the move to IPv6 because it’s so expensive. Upgrading to IPv6 means upgrading all of the switches and routers within an organization, which can easily become a major expense, and why would they when they already have 16 million IP addresses? Presumably the future of IPv6 will be for anyone that wants to be granted new IP addresses and can’t use IPv4 because they’re all gone.
Some media outlets are predicting cloud services to experience hiccups this summer, but more than likely running out of IPv4 is exactly what we needed to kick everyone’s butts into gear and move to IPv6.