IPv6 3 January 2014

Whitepaper: Balancing IP Address Distribution and Decentralization

By Dan YorkDirector, Internet Technology

A Fine BalanceHave you ever wondered about how IP addresses get distributed to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other network operators to give out to you in your home or office?  Regardless of whether for IPv6 or legacy IPv4 addresses, would you like to know more about how that process actually works?

In April 2013, some of our colleagues here at the Internet Society authored a white paper exploring these exact topics. Titled “A Fine Balance: Internet number resource distribution and de-centralisation“, the document has this for an executive summary:

Internet number resources (IP addresses and AS numbers) are distributed to resource users through processes that have evolved over time. Although initially centralised, the processes of policy formation and resource distribution have more recently been devolved to regional organisations. In addition, technology evolution has been embraced. IPv4 allocations have successfully evolved to meet the needs of the global community and IPv6 allocations, starting from a  clean slate, are now able to leverage this successful global platform. This decentralisation is a direct consequence of the expansion of the Internet to cover all regions of the globe and it serves a number of important functions. Decentralisation is not an end in itself however, and experience shows us that a careful balance and coordination are needed to ensure that the over-riding objectives of aggregation, conservation and registration continue to be met.

The commitment between the resource distributors and the resource users is bidirectional, and resource distribution is essentially an operational engineering  function that requires careful co-ordination and consensus building to succeed.Network operators have very strong incentives to partner with operationally  knowledgeable organisations when obtaining numbering resources and will  choose not to interconnect with networks that disregard this reality. As a  consequence, proposals either to further centralise or de-centralise the  processes whereby Internet numbering resources are distributed should be given  very careful consideration indeed, with maintenance of the fine balance that has  served the community well to date uppermost in our minds.

The document goes on to explain how IP address allocation began and how it evolved to the current model.  It is well worth a read for anyone seeking to better understand how the Internet really works at an operational level.

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

Related articles

Measuring the Internet 10 August 2020

Measuring the Internet – Mid Year Project Update

Here at the Internet Society, we believe that the Internet is for everyone. Our work centers on increasing the...

Open Standards Everywhere 11 June 2020

Listen to the Hedge Podcast 39 to Learn about the Open Standards Everywhere Project

What is our Open Standards Everywhere (OSE) project all about? How did it get started? What are the project...

Open Standards Everywhere 6 June 2020

On This 8th World IPv6 Launchiversary, Help Us Get More Websites Available Over IPv6

Eight years ago, on June 6, 2012, thousands of companies and organizations came together as part of World IPv6...