Is IPv4 Depletion Day Coming Sooner than We Think?

Posted by Mary McCoy on Jul 9, 2015 6:00:00 AM


Is the Internet about to run out of IP address numbers? Hosting providers have long since speculated the arrival of Depletion Day. In fact, we've been waiting for the sky to fall since the 1980's. Why then has the industry conversation turned back to this dreaded event? In this blog post, we'll explain the status of IPv4 numbers, the likelihood that their decimation is upon us, and the next steps all hosting providers can take to survive the fallout.

What Is the Depletion Date? I Don't Have It Marked on My Calendar...

Before we discuss Depletion Day, let's first pretend you're Verizon and need to be able to offer enough unique combinations of a seven-digit phone number to end users. This scenario isn't that far off from your core business model. As hosting providers, you purchase IP addresses from the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN). Just like Verizon, you need to have enough IP addresses to offer your clients. 

What if that's not possible? There's only a finite number of possible combinations. Enter: depletion.

The Whir claims depletion is "when ARIN is unable to fulfill a particular customer request for certain sizes of IPv4 address blocks." One customer surely can't unleash an IP address famine of this magnitude, right? Unfortunately, that customer can...and don't call him Shirley.

Let's say you asked ARIN for a large block of IPv4s - 6 million if it helps to put a number on it - but they're out of that size block and instead suggest the next smallest size of 3 million. If you can't purchase that block because there aren't enough IPv4s, that one failed transaction would bring about depletion even if ARIN still had all of those addresses in reserve to offer someone else. As the Whir points out, "ARIN may be depleted and still have IPs for several weeks." 

While this domino effect has yet to happen, it's only a matter of time. Currently, ARIN has 2.5 million IPv4s in inventory. With its burn rate, forecasts suggest it will exhaust its IP reserves by August of this year. 

What Happens Come Depletion Day? 

Once ARIN is unable to fulfill a customer request, it will be harder and more expensive to acquire IPv4 addresses to grow your business. It's a simple case of supply and demand. There will be less IPv4s so they'll be in even greater demand and thus, charged at a higher price.

Are We Doomed?

Don't start building your bunker just yet. Yes, depletion is a serious matter, but here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • IPv4 address depletion will NOT trigger the switching off of these services
  • Your back-end infrastructure can still be configured on IPv4 since it's not end user-facing
  • It is unlikely that you'll be unable to accept the next available size block ARIN offers you
  • You can always get more space with IPv6 addresses (more on this later)

What Can We Do in the Meantime?

It's not time to panic, but it is time to act! Apply for IP numbers now before others beat you to it. Again, think of the economics of the situation. With every hosting provider rushing to the ARIN window as stocks or rather, blocks, deplete you'll want to have a leg up before the price of IP addresses skyrockets. 

ARIN has also shared a list of options to explore upon depletion, including links to submit requests as well as an outline of how to respond if you need an address block of a different size. 

As an alternative, ARIN recommends you upgrade to IPv6 addresses, which will eventually become the new Internet standard since they offer more space. Whereas IPv4s can theoretically hold about 4 billion addresses, this new protocol could potentially hold trillions! As the Internet Society touts in a series of FAQs, the increased space offered by IPv6s means your

  • home user end clients will have enough blocks of addresses to number multiple networks and thousands of devices
  • SMB clients will have enough to number even more networks and tens of thousands of devices

It is important to note that none of your clients will notice any difference between IPv4s and IPv6s. 

You may not be looking to make the switch just yet, but it will become increasingly harder and more expensive to acquire additional IPv4 addresses. While the Internet has become a shared space between the two, eventually sites will only support IPv6, and you'll want to make sure your clients can sustain their connectivity when this time comes.

How Do We Back up All of This Data?

The speed at which we've used these IP addresses speaks to the overall growth in the web hosting market and is just one of many industry hurdles we're facing today. Perhaps the more pressing concern is how we plan on backing up the sheer magnitude of data easily and efficiently. Consider all of the IP addresses pointing at .com, .net, and .gov sites. All of the data across these sites needs to be backed up with minimal hassle and optimal accessibility. If you're a current R1Soft customer, you know that we offer Bare-Metal Restore and Continuous Data Protection (CDP) at the block level to expedite the server backup process and help you recover the most recent copies of sensitive data with minimum client downtime.

We're constantly seeking to enhance our flexible, multi-tenant, and multi-platform BDR solution to fit the market need in an ever-progressing industry. In keeping with this mission, we expect to support IPv6 by the end of the year and will be discussing this hot topic further as the proud Gold Sponsor of HostingCon Global. If you're interested in delving deeper into the current trends and obstacles surrounding BDR services, make sure you attend our session, What's Your Backup Service Look Like? 

Click below to learn more about the session and our involvement at the event. See you there!

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Meet Mary! Mary McCoy is Continuum’s resident Inbound Marketing Specialist and social media enthusiast. She recently graduated from the University of Virginia (Wahoowa!) with a BA in Economics and served as digital marketing intern for Citi Performing Arts Center (Citi Center), spearheading the nonprofit’s #GivingTuesday social media campaign. Like her school’s founder, Thomas Jefferson, Mary believes learning never ends. She considers herself a passionate, lifelong student of content creation and inbound marketing.

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