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  1. IP Addresses: Your Questions Answered

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    If you have ever worked with an internet service provider, you have probably heard the term “IP Address” before. Even so, it is very easy not to give the term much thought. But, what if I told you without IP addresses, we would live in a world without internet, phone, or any communication between devices?

    Through answering a series of questions, this article should help to demystify the IP Address as well as well as explain its current role in the technology industry.

    What is an IP Address?

    An IP (internet protocol) address is a code that acts like a postal address for the internet. Since the internet connects all the devices in the world to create a network, it needs addresses to pinpoint where information has been sent, and where it is to be received. Every device that connects to the internet has an IP address that allows it to communicate with other connected devices.

    There are two types of IP Addresses: Static and Dynamic

    Static IP addresses, like the name suggests, do not change when connected to your network. They are more stable than dynamic IP addresses, allow for more accurate geolocation, and are better suited for hosting dedicated services like VPN or company email. They are also good for hosting and creating internet servers because they provide an identity that can be catalogued. Businesses are the most common users of these addresses.

    It is also important to mention that static IP addresses are treated as a premium product. They typically come with a fee, and some internet service providers will only sell them to business class services.

    On the other hand, Dynamic IP addresses change. With a dynamic IP address, a device secures an available address for an amount of time– leading to greater IP address efficiency for the internet service provider. These addresses are automatic and do not require any effort for the user, however geolocation is less accurate. This type of address is the best option for casual internet usage and is common among residential and consumer offerings.

    What is the difference between IPv4 versus IPv6?

    IPv4 addresses are the original IP configuration developed in the 1980’s that consists of four numbers from 0-255 followed by decimals such as: 92.156.201.25 . They are 32 bits in size and have about 4.3 billion possible combinations.

    IPv6 addresses were created in 1998 after engineers realized that 4.3 billion combinations might not be enough. (Who knew the internet would be so popular?) These addresses are 128 bits in size and include eight groups of four letters (A through F) and numbers separated by colons. An example of an IPv6 address would be as follows: 8bbd:1200:6545:2875:a900:f8cd:fe67:68ef . There are about 340 trillion trillion trillion (340 x 10^36) combinations of IPv6 addresses, making IPv4’s 4.3 billion look tiny.

    Why is there a push for organizations to deploy IPv6 addresses?

    As shown above, there are only a set amount of IP addresses, and far less IPv4 addresses than IPv6 addresses. The bottom line is that almost all of the IPv4 addresses have been secured from internet registries like ARIN. Without any more IP addresses to distribute, the internet would cease to grow and be limited to 4.3 billion addresses. However, since brilliant engineers foresaw this issue in 1998, there are ample IPv6 addresses available to keep our internet growing.

    Also, IPv6 migration is encouraged to help “futureproof” your technology because IPv6 addresses can be read more easily by existing IPv4 addresses than vice versa. IPv4 technology requires a translator in order to understand IPv6 addresses. This makes deploying IPv6 a greater priority for international organizations to ensure a reliable connection between customers and clients in all areas of the world. Another benefit of IPv6 is that the addresses are highly available, and therefore qualified users can secure them easily and in large quantities.

    What are the concerns with IPv6 Deployment?

    The main concern companies have with IPv6 addresses is their compatibility with current equipment. If IPv6 is not compatible, it could create a need for equipment replacement–leading to high costs. In addition, since IPv6 is viewed as a newer technology, it can cause a degree of discomfort and uncertainty among potential adopters who are unfamiliar with its complexity, and unsure of the security threats it might pose.

    What is the current state of IPv6 Deployment?

    According to the Internet Society’s 2017 IPv6 Deployment Report, “IPv6 deployment is increasing around the world, with over 9 million domain names and 23% of all networks advertising IPv6 connectivity.” This report goes on to explain that we are moving into the “Early Adopter” phase of the diffusion of innovations, and deployment shall continue to be adopted globally. Regional internet registries continue to promote the adoption of these addresses and raise awareness of the current IPv4 supply situation.

    Green and Blue diffusion of innovations

    IPv6 deployment is currently entering the early adopter phase of the diffusion of innovations.

    For more information, you can visit internet society.org to view the June 6, 2017 state of IPv6 Deployment document.

    In Closing,

    Even as many companies are led to adopt the IPv6 address technology, we will still have IPv4 addresses in use. Moving forward, merging these two formats together will allow our internet to continue to grow by connecting more and more devices. It is amazing how fast our internet has grown, and it will certainly continue thanks to the engineers who thought ahead and developed the IPv6 address.

     DQE Communications does offer IPv6 addresses to its interested customers. Contact Us if you are interested in any of DQE Communications’ network solutions.

    This article was written by Kristen Franks with contributions from Jason Basham, Sales Engineer.

  2. IPv4 Exhaustion is REAL

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    Written by: Steve Puluka, Sr IP Engineer, DQE Communications // June 2016

    When TCP/IP version 4 was published in 1981 (RFC 791-3) the four byte 4.2 billion addresses seemed like a limitless resource in our nascent networked world. The standard had only three sizes of addresses allocated to members: class A (16 million), B (65k) and C (254). But the member club was limited and the enormous space allocations were not an issue.

    By the end of the decade, engineers recognized the limitations on growth this method of allocation was having on the system. RFC 1519 published in 1993 created the CIDR (Classless Inter Domain Routing) block system that allows a more flexible allocation of addresses in blocks starting with 1 and doubling in size as they march up the chain. This system is still in use today to allocate address space for connectivity.

    Even with the CIDR method of address conservation, engineers realized that further economies could be realized. A large number of network connected devices did not need to have a direct presence on the internet. RFC 1918 (published in 1996) allocated three address blocks for private network use. These private address blocks provided addressable space that would not need to be routed on the public internet.

    These two innovations, CIDR and Private Addressing, subsequently enable the internet to connect over 20 billion network devices using the 4.2 billion scope of IPv4 address space. A remarkable and enduring accomplishment for a network technology defined in 1980, with only two major revisions in scope. But there remains a limited resource in those 4.2 billion addresses due to a continuing upward trajectory of connected devices.

    ARIN Countdown to IPv4 Exhaustion

    Despite the efficiencies gained by CIDR & Private Addressing, there is still an actual limit on the number of available addresses for use in each region of the world. The North American registry, ARIN announced their 4 phase IPv4 address exhaustion countdown plan in February of 2011. In a matter of four years all 4 phases were complete. The 4 phases of the countdown plan became exhausted, when in September 2015 the last available IPv4 block in ARIN inventory was allocated leaving nothing remaining.

    ARIN still accepts requests for additional IPv4 blocks and maintains a waiting list of such requests. The waiting list currently has over 300 requests for previously allocated address space which is being returned to ARIN. ARIN continues to review these requests and grant approvals for address blocks that companies can justify the need for the IP space.

    Managing Limited Resources

    Now that IPv4 space from ARIN is exhausted, ISPs (Internet Service Providers), like DQE Communications, have to both individually manage the allocations, as well as identify new ways to replenish their allocations from alternative sources. As such, recovery of unused space within existing allocations and finding new sources for unused address blocks are currently important actions for ISPs.

    When initially assigning address blocks, ISPs work with customers to identify the anticipated public address space needs on the services. Due to ARIN specifications ISPs must perform audits of address utilization to ensure space is being utilized appropriately. If a customer’s IP space needs decrease or do not meet ARIN specs, their IP allocations can be adjusted and unused space recovered. As IP space becomes more limited, the recovery of unused space becomes more important.

    As the limitations on IP space have become more apparent, a private marketplace for IPv4 address space transfers has developed. Organizations that were given large allocations by ARIN are collecting a fee (per IP address) to transfer the unused space to an organization that qualifies for additional space.

    To enable this type of transfer, the receiving organization must apply for the new block size and be approved by ARIN. ARIN currently puts a two year usage period on these requests for transfer. Thus transferred space must be utilized within two years. For the foreseeable future, this private market of fee-based IPv4 block transfers will be the only method to acquire new address space in the ARIN region.

    It is likely that there remain many unused IPv4 blocks that were previously allocated to large organizations many years ago. These address blocks will likely fill the growing needs of ISPs in the ARIN region for some time to come. As the market tightens, ARIN and other regional authorities may step in to more directly manage these limited resources. As with any market, we can expect costs for IPv4 address blocks to rise as the availability of transfers diminish.

    Until IPv6 deployment has gained a foothold, ISPs will need to get new approved requests by ARIN for IPv4 address blocks and budget for the fees necessary to actually acquire the address space that will be needed.

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