The Number Resource Organisation has announced that less than five percent of the world's IPv4 addresses remain unallocated – meaning that crunch time is rapidly approaching unless internet stakeholders move to a new protocol.

Much has been made of the fact that the old IPv4 addresses are running out, but the NRO has pointed out that recent allocations mean that things are becoming urgent, and IPv6 adoption is critical.

"This is a major milestone in the life of the Internet, and means that allocation of the last blocks of IPv4 to the RIRs is imminent," states Axel Pawlik, Chairman of the Number Resource Organization (NRO), the official representative of the five RIRs.

"It is critical that all Internet stakeholders take definitive action now to ensure the timely adoption of IPv6."

Diminishing numbers

The problem of the rapidly disappearing number of available of IP addresses – from the IPv4 protocol – has been hitting the headlines since the original internet boom, but the problem has not yet been eradicated, as the remainder are carved up between regions.

"The allocation of Internet number resources by the five RIRs (regional internet registries) enables every region in the world to benefit from fair and equitable distribution of IPv4 and IPv6 addresses, added Pawlik.

"We are also actively collaborating with stakeholders at the local, regional, and global level to offer training and advice to public and private sector organisations on IPv6 adoption to ensure that everyone is prepared for IPv4 depletion and IPv6 deployment."

Consequences?

So what's the worst that could happen? The NRO believes that, as soon as 2011, we could see some dramatic consequences.

"According to current depletion rates, the last five IPv4 address blocks will be allocated to the RIRs in early 2011, stated the organization.

"The pressure to adopt IPv6 is mounting. Many worry that without adequate preparation and action, there will be a chaotic scramble for IPv6, which could increase Internet costs and threaten the stability and security of the global network."

Numbers

Version 4 of the IP protocol has a pool of 4,294,967,296 addresses. By contrast, the number of globally unique addresses that IPv6 can provide is staggering. The figure is 2128, or 3.4 followed by 38 zeros.

This is thought to be enough to give every single human being alive his or her own permanently allocated pool of unique IP addresses.