The internet is running out of room. The regulator in charge of issuing internet protocol (IP) addresses has warned that it will run out of the essential online monickers in less than two years. IP addresses are numerical codes that use four groups of figures between 0 and 255 to provide access to the internet for as many as 4 billion devices.
The past few years have seen a boom in the number of devices connecting to the internet as the cost of Web access has fallen. Equipment such as household appliances that can be controlled remotely through the internet have also contributed to the increasing demand for space on the Web. Since the 1980s, the regulator has assigned IP addresses under a standard called IPv4, which is reaching its limit. Another standard, IPv6, is capable of providing a near-infinite number of Web addresses but has not been widely incorporated.
"Many decision makers don't realise how many devices require IP addresses - mobile phones, laptops, servers, routers - the list goes on," said Raul Echeberria, the secretary of the Number Resource Organisation. "The number of available IPv4 addresses is shrinking rapidly, and if the global internet community fails to recognise this, it will face grave consequences in the very near future." The concern that is keeping IT managers up at night is that everything connected to the internet that uses IPv4 technology will be rendered obsolete as soon as it runs out of available connections.
An estimated 10 per cent of IP address capacity remains under the IPv4 standard. "It's going to be a lot like what happened with the Y2K bug, except this time it's real," said Ahtram Pirzada, a support engineer for Al-Futtaim Technologies. Mr Pirzada said that anyone owning electronic equipment that was not IPv6 compatible would have to upgrade it or replace it with new equipment. While the impact on the region's IT budgets will be felt over the next two years, Mr Pirzada does not expect too many disruptions when IPv4 addresses have been exhausted.
"This won't be too much of a problem because companies already have upgrade policies set in place that will get new devices that will be IPv6 compatible," he said. firstname.lastname@example.org