It was always going to happen. We’ve been watching the exhaustion of the 32 bit address space of IPv4 for more than 20 years, and we’ve had the solution available for even longer: IPv6.
I’ve written many times about IPv6 adoption and migration on this blog. I’ve spoken many times with colleagues about it. I’ve presented at AWS User Groups about using IPv6 in AWS. And when I worked at AWS 10 years ago, I championed that s a competitive advantage to IPv6 all the things where IPv4 was in use.
The adoption has been slow. Outside of the Cloud, ISP support has been mixed, depending if they have the engineering capability to uplift legacy networks, or not. Let’s be clear – those ISPs who removed their engineers, and minimise the innovation, are about to have a lot of work to do, or face tough conversations with customers.
For those that have already done the work, then this weeks AWS annoucement about the start of charging for public IPv4 address space from 2024 is a non-issue. For others, its going to start to mean some action.
Lets start with the basics; go have a read of the AWS Announcement: New – AWS Public IPv4 Address Charge + Public IP, posted 28 July 2023.
You’re back, ok, so at time of blogging, charges start in 2024. Currently, your first IPv4 assigned to an instance is not charged for, but soon it will be half a US cent per hour, or on a 744 hour month, US$3.72 a month. Not much, unless you have hundreds of them.
Selling an IPv4 netblock
In the last few years I helped a government agency “sell” an unused /16 IPv4 netblock for several million dollars. They had two of them, and had only ever used a few /24 ranges from their first block; the second block was not even announced anywhere. There was no sound plan for keeping them.
The market price to sell a large contiguous block of addresses keeps going up – 4 years ago it was around $22 per IPv4 address (and a /16 is 65,536 of them, so just over US$1.4M). Over time, large contiguous address blocks were becoming more valuable. Only one event would stop this from happening: when no one needed them any more. And that event was when the tipping point into the large spread (default) usage of IPv6, at which time, they drop towards worthless.
The tipping point just got closer.
Bringing it back to now
So with this announcement, what do we see. Well, this kind of sums it up:
Congratulations, your IPv6 migration plan just got a business case, AWS is now charging for v4 addresses. v6 is free, and the sky has finally fallen:Nick Matthews @nickpowpow
There have been many IPv6 improvements over the years, but few deployments are ready to ditch IPv4 all together. Anything with an external deployment that only supports IPv4 is going to be a bit of a pain.
Luckily, AWS has made NAT64 and DNS64 available, which lets IPv6 only hosts contact IPv4 hosts.
The time has come to look at your business partners you work with – those you have API interfaces to, and have the IPv6 conversation. It’s going to be a journey, but at this stage, its one that some in the industry have been on since the last millennium (I used to use Hurricane Electric’s TunnelBroker IPv6 tunnelling service in the late 1990s from UWA for IPv6).
Looking at your personal ISP and Mobile/Cell provider
It’s also time to start to reconsider your home ISP and cell phone provider if they aren’t already providing you with real IPv6 addresses. I personally swapped home Internet provider in Australia several years ago, tired of the hollow promises of native IPv6 implementation from one of Australia’s largest and oldest ISPs, started by an industry friend of mine in Perth many years ago (who has not been associated with it for several years). When the ISP was bought out, many of the talented engineers left (one way or another), and it was clear they weren’t going to implement new and modern transport protocols any time soon.
Looking at your corporate IT Dept
Your office network is going to need to step up, eventually. This is likely to be difficult, as often corporate IT departments are understaffed when it comes to these kinds of changes. They often outsource to managed service providers, many of whom don’t look to the future to see what they need to anticipate for their customers, but minimise the current present cost to “keep the lights on”. This is because customers often buy on cost, not on quality or value, in which case, the smart engineers are elsewhere.
Your best hope is to find the few technically minded people in your organisation who have already done this, or are talking about this, and getting them involved.
Looking at your internet-facing services
There’s only one thing to do, ASAP: dual-stack everything that is [public] Internet facing. Monitor your integration partners for traffic that uses IPv4, and talk to them about your IPv6 migration plans.
Its worth watching for when organisations make this switch. There are many ways to do this.
For web sites and HTTP/HTTPS APIs, consider using a CDN that can sit in front of your origin server, and as the front-door to your service, can be dual stack for you. Amazon CloudFront has been a very flexible way to do this for years, but you must remember both steps in doing this:
- Tick the Enable IPv6 on the CloudFront distribution
- Add a record to your DNS for the desired hostname as an AAAA record, alongside the existing A record.
The Long Term Future
IPv4 will go away, one day.
It may be another 20 years, or it may now be sooner given economic pressures starting to appear. Eventually the world will move on past Vint Cerf’s experimental range that, from the 1970s, has outlasted all expectations. IPv4 was never supposed to scale to all of humanity. But its replacement, IPv6, is likely to outlast all of us alive today.