The powers that be for IP address allocation are gathering old space that was wastefully allocated long ago, but it won't make much difference.
Some time ago I wrote somewhere about Geoff Huston and his
projections for the depletion of what remains in the IPv4 address pool
was intrigued by his work and suggested to him that there were a lot of
wasteful class A addresses out there, and perhaps they could be reallocated to better
A class A address, aka /8 in TCP/IP
jargon, holds 16,777,216 addresses. It's an entire block with the same first
value in the address. Surf here
where the various /8 addresses have been allocated. Huge blocks of them go to
ARIN, RIPE, APNIC and other regional Internet registries, which dole them out
to lesser bodies such as ISPs and governments.
Many of these /8 addresses are assigned to great universities, U.S.
governmental entities and major corporations. For instance, 012/8 belongs to
Bell Labs (now part of Alcatel-Lucent). GE, Xerox, Hewlett-Packard, DEC, Apple,
Halliburton (yes, Halliburton) and Merck all have them. Even the Interop Show Network,
formerly part of the same family as this publication, has its own /8 address.
Do these entities really need such expansive address space? The answer is
clearly no, but now what can be done? Huston replied to me that my suggestion
was an impractical one. First, for example, why would Apple cede its giant
address space without compensation, and who would pay? (These companies paid
essentially nothing for these addresses back in the '80s and early '90s when
they got them.) Second, the renumbering of addresses involved in such an
operation would be quite complicated and expensive.
Should IP address be considered private data and protected? Click here to read more.
It's not really the technical problems that bother Huston; it's the economic
and social factors. Who would get the addresses? If it's decided in a market,
what would be the terms of the sale? Would the usual regional parceling of
addresses be done, or should (for example, again) Merck's addresses stay in the
because they're here already?
Now, according to the ICANN blog,
we may have the chance to see how it will all play out. ICANN reports that,
indeed, much /8 address space has been recovered. Some addresses, it seems,
were essentially unallocated. Some were recovered from other owners:
- 014 - Public Data Net
- 046 - BBN
- 049 - US DoD
- 050 - US DoD
(Darn nice of BBN, the people who bootstrapped the original proto-Internet.
Why did they give this away? I contacted them to ask and wouldn't you know it,
they denied that the address space was theirs. They had no explanation, but it
sounds like they basically forgot about the address space and eventually
decided just to give it up. But I digress...)
recent announcement from ICANN
celebrated the recovery of just one of
these, the 014/8 subnet, but the story is both bigger and smaller than that.
With still more it had reserved, ICANN says it has 43 unallocated /8s. That
might seem like a lot, being almost 17 percent (43/256) of the total address
space, but ICANN also said it "...allocated more than one /8 per month
in 2007," so it won't last long.
The final days of the IPv4 land rush could be ugly ones. There will likely
be a "run on the bank" for the final blocks of addresses. Aftermarkets
for network blocks could develop, and they could be expensive. In a comment to
the blog entry, the ICANN rep noted that ICANN has already noticed use of what
is officially unallocated space; in other words, there are squatters out in the
remaining undeveloped neighborhoods of IPv4Land. One day the sheriff will come
along and evict them when the rightful owners put their money down.
ICANN's major conclusion from these developments is a reasonable one: New, large
deployments of network space really have to be planned to use IPv6. Not a
pleasant thought, but not the end of the world. It's going to happen some day.
Editor Larry Seltzer has worked
in and written about the computer industry since 1983.
For insights on security coverage around the Web, take
a look at eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer's blog Cheap Hack.