The end of the (IPv4) world is not nigh… yet

By on 18 Mar 2024

Category: Tech matters

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"Opening The Seals" from Mortier's Bible. (1700)
Adapted from the orginal image at Wikimedia Commons.

A recent update from CZ.NIC, the organization responsible for managing the Czech Republic’s ccTLD and involved in DNS software, Internet systems, and standards, discusses the recent decision by the Czech government to require the discontinuation of IPv4 on services within their jurisdiction. Basically, this means all state-provided web services.

Is this the end of the IPv4 world as we know it? No, but it’s a good sign of change coming.

IP addressing and protocols have been evolving for quite some time. IPv6, established in the late 1990s and the address policy within the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) system advocating its adoption since the early 2000s, has now reached global implementation on a large scale.

At the time of writing, the APNIC Labs show figures for IPv6 worldwide are at 36% while the Czech Republic is close to 22%. These are respectable numbers but they far from indicate that IPv4 is done. The rate of climb in both cases poses a complex logistical challenge, but the trajectory follows a linear model. It is expected to take a decade or more for IPv6 capability to become the predominant choice globally, and potentially even longer in the case of Czechia — unless, of course, government intervention changes the pace.

This story is topical for the APNIC service region because it just featured during the Closing Plenary at APRICOT 2024 where NSRC’s Brian Candler presented the ‘IPv6 mostly progress report’ (PDF).

Another discussion about IPv4’s end of life occurred in the Sunsetting IPv4 (sunset4) Working Group in IETF. It concluded in 2022, but the consensus reaction at the time of this activity was that it was ‘too soon’ (for some ‘never’ would be too soon!).

The goal of reducing reliance on explicit IPv4 dependence in the Internet has persisted. For some governments, this goal is deemed significant enough to warrant action. However, the approach is not a direct cessation of IPv4 usage. Instead, it involves urging awareness and active adoption of IPv6. Governments aim to ensure that services are IPv6-enabled and function seamlessly on this protocol, normalizing IPv6 as an integral part of the Internet experience for various reasons. Actions like these underscore the imperative need for transition.

In a decade, perhaps there’ll be no need to question if IPv6 can serve as the backbone of the Internet because there’ll be no doubt that it already is.

Watch Brian Candler’s ‘IPv6 mostly progress report’ from APRICOT 2024.
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