[arin-ppml] Some data relating to IPv4 address exhaustion (or not)

Ted Mittelstaedt tedm at ipinc.net
Wed May 6 13:53:24 EDT 2009

In simple terms, yes.

In my opinion there are other, more accurate, controlling variables
in the equation of IP address consumption, SOME of these variables
are also controlling variables of world economic growth.

It is like saying that US auto ownership is a controlling variable
of US oil consumption.  There is a casual relationship there but
I think in the overall analysis, both those figures track US economic
activity more than they track each other.

If you want to play with this, here's some suggestions of controlling

Growth of networkable hosts - this is the count of all networkable hosts
in the world at any given time and is easily estimated by graphing the
uptake of MAC addresses.

Distribution of networkable hosts - this is the density of networkable
hosts in a given area.  The idea here is that just because a host has a
network interface, it is not necessarly plugged into anything and it
takes a critical mass of hosts in a given "cultural group" to ignite the
demand for Internet connectivity.  You could estimate this figure by
assuming that, say, today 80% of all networkable hosts exist in a cultural
that has reached critical mass, and developing a historical graph.  You
could also divide up the world into areas and count the number of routers
on the Internet in those areas.

I say "cultural group" because it's obvious if, for example, a person is
a member of a culture which doesn't have much of interest on the
Internet (Amish perhaps?) they might have a computer but they likely
have interest in connecting it to the Internet.  They would more likely
be interested in connecting it to an internal network like a corporate
network or something which wouldn't demand connectivity.

Type of networkable hosts - some hosts like PC's running Windows or
Mac's running MacOS demand full time Internet connectivity for patch
and are most likely to be connected to the Internet.  Some hosts, like a
network print server, may spend their entire production life never
sending a packet to the Internet.  The distribution figures of various
host types can be roughly estimated by looking at cell network expansion
(number of cell towers, since smart phones demand MAC addresses but seldom
use public IP addresses, and smartphone use is a percentage of all cell
phone use) computer sales, and MAC address uptake.

Location of host growth.  Some areas of the world are growing in IPv6
demand much more than North America and are not growing in IPv4 demand.

Length if time networkable hosts are in service in a given area - this
is the idea that the longer a "cultural group" of networkable hosts are
in service, the more likely that they will connect.

My gut feeling, though, is that the reason we are seeing a rolloff of
IPv4 uptake is that the largest consumers of IPv4 - the cellular networks -
commenced shifting to IPv6 several years ago, and I am guessing
that the very last IPv4 block that was handed out to a cell network for
assignment to phones was handed out in 2008.

The $64,000 question, though, is what are the other large consumers of
IPv4 planning on doing?  I'm thinking specifically of the cable TV
networks but there's also the wireless and DSL people too.  They
certainly see IPv4-runout getting closer and closer and clearly they
will have to shift to IPv6.  If they wait until the last /8 is assigned
then shift, runout will happen more quickly than if they shift a
year or so in advance.

Recall I posted a week ago that I think there's a good chance that
IPv4 runout will not be a single, cataclysmic event that will happen
on a single date, but will be more gradual.

For example, a common myth is that the automobile made the horse drawn
carriage obsolete and signaled the end of buggy whip manufacture.  In
actual fact, there are still buggy whip manufacturers today.  Horse
drawn carriage manufacturing didn't die at a single date - it was a process
that took years for carriage & buggy whip manufacture to die down
to the niche market it is today.

(people love to talk about similar shifts like the introduction of
electricity and introduction of the telephone as happening with
lightning speed when they happened, but those are myths, too)

Note that I've set followups to arin-discuss


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Eliot Lear [mailto:lear at cisco.com] 
> Sent: Wednesday, May 06, 2009 5:04 AM
> To: Ted Mittelstaedt
> Cc: 'arin ppml'; William Lehr
> Subject: Some data relating to IPv4 address exhaustion (or not)
> Ted,
> Here are some interesting data points for this group to consider.  
> According to the U.N., world economic growth dropped from 3.5-4% in
> 2003-2007 to 2.5% in 2008, and the prediction is for around 
> 1% growth in 2009.  At the same time, Geoff Huston's numbers 
> have been shifting to the right.  In the case of IANA the 
> number has shifted out 6 months in 6 months.  We have not 
> seen quite the same shift for RIR numbers, however.  Is world 
> economic growth a controlling variable in the equation of IP 
> address consumption, or merely a coincidence, and how can we tell?
> Eliot

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