22 June 2022 | 2 min read

Latest in the News: Can More IPv4s and IPv6+ Answer the Internet’s Sustainability Woes? 

The topic of internet’s sustainability has been around since before IPv4 addresses – the building blocks of the internet – were officially exhausted in 2011. Can more IPv4 addresses offer relief, or should we turn to IPv6+?

Internet globe with arrows around it representing sustainability.

We can look at the internet’s sustainability from several different perspectives. We can look at the energy expenditure of the internet industry and its environmental impact. Alternatively, we can look at the sustainable utilization of the most important internet resources – Internet Protocol addresses. While some propose putting reserved resources back to use, others suggest implementing IPv6+. What is IPv6+, and how can reserved IPs be brought back to use? These are the hot topics that were discussed in the recent news. 

The IPv4 Unicast Extensions Project proposes a way to reintroduce reserved IPs 

Seth Schoen introduced the IPv4 Unicast Extensions Project, which proposes a way to release up to 6-7% of the entire IPv4 address space. The proposal involves removing the lowest address in each subnet, 240/4 (except 255.255.255.255), 0/8 (except 0.0.0.0) and 127/8 (except 127/16) from reserves. This is around 300 million IPv4 addresses, and the release could significantly alleviate the current IPv4 crisis.  

According to Schoen, a significant number of IPv4s are going to waste. That is because they were reserved decades ago, back in the 1980s, when the scarcity of the resource was not yet evident. Today, IPv4 exhaustion is well researched, and measures to bring back unused resources are being developed. The IPv4 Unicast Extensions Project is one of those measures.  

China proposes the creation of IPv6+ 

Although, evidently, there are still plenty of IPv4 addresses that could be put to use, the fact that there is a highly limited number of IPv4s does not change. Undeniably, reutilizing unused resources can have a great impact on the entire internet community and offer many possibilities for new and growing businesses. However, some strongly believe that IPv6 – the newest generation of the Internet Protocol – is the only answer to the issue. 

When IPv6 was first introduced, there was no doubt that IPv6 adoption would take off. However, it’s been a full decade since the official IPv6 Launch Day, and adoption rates are still disappointing. Perhaps this is why the Chinese government has decided to propose the concept of IPv6+. Still, some believe that it is just another problematic Internet Protocol version.  

The role of CIDR in creating a more sustainable internet 

Classless Inter-Domain Routing (CIDR) is a system that ensures a better allocation of IP addresses. It was developed in 1993 by the Internet Assigned Number Authority, and it was meant to alleviate the impending depletion of IPv4 addresses. We now know that CIDR couldn’t solve the problem completely. Nonetheless, this routing system has allowed utilizing resources in a much more sustainable way. 

In this day and age, squeezing as much as possible out of a single IP address is crucial for businesses around the world. Lee Howard discusses how CIDR ensures that companies with a limited number of IPs are able to ensure full network functionality without wasting any IPv4 space.