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Government to weigh up its unused IPv4s

20/02/15

The Office of the CTO is looking at how to make use of wasted internet addresses

The Cabinet Office has begun to investigate how it could utilise IPv4 addresses that are held by government but not currently used, as part of an effort to make more of existing IT resources.

Hadley Beeman of the Office of the Chief Technology Officer has outlined the initiative in a blogpost, saying it has brought in Ernst & Young to help look at the possibilities.

Internet cable plugsAn IP address is an identifier for a computer or device on an internet protocol network. A slow transition is now in place as the old IPv4 internet protocol has been replaced by IPv6 in the allocation of new addresses. The former is being used up and IPv5 went missing with earlier transition plans.

While Beeman provides no estimate of the possible number of unused addresses, she suggests there is a significant number, citing observations from officials at the Department for Work and Pensions. They could be sold or reused.

"This period of discovery is a useful one to see what value we have hidden in our existing technology," she says. "We may be able to better use our network assets, like addresses, both by freeing them up for someone else to use, and by releasing some value from things we aren't using to their fullest potential."

The potential could be limited by the fact that IPv4 contains 32-bit addresses while IPv6 has 128 bits available. While the vast majority of internet traffic is still on the 4.3 billion IPv4 addresses and many networks cannot use IPv6, as there are problems around interoperability, the latter will become more important as it has the potential to provide trillions of addresses.

Image: cable by Adhikarimahesh, Wikimedia, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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