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Historical Lookback: IPv6 Traffic and IPv4 Exhaustion Trends

Yesterday's blog post reviewed how key connectivity metrics have trended over the last six years.  In general, average and peak connection speeds, as well as high broadband and broadband adoption, have all grown over time, although the growth rates in some regions have clearly been more aggressive than in other regions.  However, without IPv4, none of that connectivity would have been possible.  Going forward, IPv6 will be a key enabler of connectivity as available IPv4 address space is exhausted.  In today's post, we'll review IPv6 traffic trends seen on the Akamai Intelligent Platform during 2013, as well as global IPv4 exhaustion trends seen during 2012-2013.

Daily IPv6 Traffic to the Akamai Intelligent Platform
Akamai was a participant in both 2011's World IPv6 Day, and the follow-on World IPv6 Launch event that took place in 2012.  In the years since, Akamai has see strong IPv6 adoption across our customer base, and across end-user networks and platforms around the world, as highlighted in two related blog posts (June 2013, March 2014).

Throughout 2013, IPv6 traffic to the Akamai platform significant growth, essentially tripling over the course of the year as the graph below shows. At the start of 2013, peak IPv6 hits/second traffic to Akamai was ~90,000 hits/second, while at the end of the year, it was just under 300,000 hits/second. Over the course of the year, a clear weekly cyclical pattern is evident, with IPv6 traffic levels dropping during the weekends, but peaking during the week.  This may indicate lagging support for IPv6 on subscriber networks, as compared to corporate networks, which are more active during the week, and generally dormant on weekends.  In addition, there are two clear 'humps' evident within the graph.  The first spans the end of September through the end of October, while the second is from mid-November through Christmas.  It's not clear exactly what the first one can be attributed to, but the second aligns closely with the holiday shopping season, and may point to increased IPv6 adoption among e-commerce Web sites, which see higher traffic during that latter period.


Total IPv6 Traffic to the Akamai Intelligent Platform
Total IPv6 traffic to Akamai, as measured in millions of hits (content requests) per day, saw a similar growth rate throughout 2013, starting off the year at just under 10 million IPv6 hits/day, and ending the year at just over 30 million IPv6 hits/day.  Looking at the graph below, it appears that daily traffic volumes grew at a fairly consistent rate through mid-July, and then picked up somewhat, with traffic levels also becoming much spikier.  The accelerated growth that becomes more evident in mid-July may be related to additional IPv6 deployment by Comcast, as their deployment shows significant acceleration at around the same time.  Similar to the graph above, the total traffic graph below also shows periods of higher traffic in September-October, as well as during the holiday shopping season, dropping sharply the weekend before Christmas.


It is extremely encouraging to see such strong growth in IPv6 traffic across the Akamai Intelligent Platform during 2013.  We expect to see continued strong growth heading into 2014 and beyond, especially as more last-mile network providers enable native IPv6 access for subscribers, and as more and more content providers make their Web sites, applications, and media available over IPv6.  Doing so will become increasingly important in the near future, as available IPv4 pool space continues to decline, as discussed below.

IPv4 Address Space Delegation by Region
Zooming into the graph below and looking at only activity during 2013 shows a fairly consistent pace of IPv4 address space delegation activity across all of the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) during 2013. Both RIPE (Europe) and APNIC (Asia Pacific) delegated comparatively few IPv4 addresses over the course of the year, while AFRINIC's (Africa) pace was slow over the first half of the year, picking up slightly in the second half.  Delegation activity at both LACNIC (Latin & South America) and ARIN (North America) had a fairly consistent trajectory during the entire year.

However, zooming out and looking at the graph for for 2012-2013 provides some additional context for trends observed in 2013.  In looking at the line on the graph for RIPE, you can see the growth stop suddenly in mid-September 2012.  This coincides with the point at which the RIR began to allocate IPv4 address space from the last /8 of IPv4 address space it holds. APNIC had previously reached this point in April 2011, which is why its activity is nearly flat during 2012-2013.  ARIN started out the period much slower, but picked up the pace significantly after delegating nearly eight million IPv4 addresses on February 27, 2012.  LACNIC and AFRINIC saw fairly consistent levels of activity over the last two years, coincident with the slow but steady growth of Internet adoption in both regions.

As the available IPv4 pool size continues to shrink at ARIN, LACNIC, and AFRINIC, we will likely see delegation activity slow, with trends in future years that look more like those seen over the last year at APNIC and RIPE.


IPv4 Address Space Available Pool Size by Region
As you would expect, the trends seen in the graph below are, in some fashion, an inverse of those seen in the graph above.  As shown above, RIPE delegated IPv4 address space rather aggressively through mid-September 2012.  This activity corresponds with a rapid decline in the size of the RIR's IPv4 available pool until the line flattens out.  Similar to APNIC, RIPE has become very conservative in delegating address space from its last remaining /8 block -- both RIRs are attempting to make that remaining address space last as long as possible before it becomes completely exhausted.

Given the trends seen in available pool size as shown in the graph below for LACNIC and ARIN, it is most likely that they will be the next two RIRs to exhaust their IPv4 address space available for delegation, while AFRINIC appears to have quite a bit of running room left.  Geoff Huston, Chief Scientist at APNIC, maintains a Web page that tracks "Projected RIR Address Pool Exhaustion Dates", based on the analysis of delegation activity and available IPv4 address space at each RIR.  Huston projects that LACNIC will exhaust its IPv4 address space in September 2014, and ARIN in March 2015, with AFRINIC holding out until March 2020.  (However, Huston also notes that "'Exhaustion' is defined here as the time when the pool of available addresses in each RIR reaches the threshold of no more general use allocations of IPv4 addresses. As ARIN have already reserved a /10 for the transition to Ipv6 policy, the low point for ARIN is a completely depleted general use pool. For AFRINIC and LACNIC it the threshold is a total of a /11 remaining in their available address pool."



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Thanks for sharing information about IPv6 Traffic and IPv4 Exhaustion Trends

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