We are all aware of the pollution caused by burning goal and combusting oil. The results are obvious: exhaust spewing from vehicles, factories, and power plants. Many of us don’t realize we are actively contributing to the unnecessary burning of energy (natural gas and coal in the US) to power the internet. We wag our fingers at internet service providers (ISPs) and data centers, but the fact is that our own organizations are wasting electricity every single hour out of ignorance or apathy. There is hope. The antidote to ignorance is education (keep reading!), and the antidote to their apathy is your passion.
To simplify the solution, it is important to understand that the foundation of the internet is IPv4 addresses. These addresses enable information exchanges and connections between servers and internet enabled devices (phones, tablets, computers, etc.). When devices are retired or migrated to IPv6, IPv4 addresses become dormant (also called “sleeping addresses”).
Like your brain at rest or a bear hibernating, these dormant addresses require power to exist—even without being actively used. Many organizations, especially those in the telecom, financial services, healthcare, and IoT spaces, are sitting on tens of thousands or more dormant IPv4 addresses. This is a big problem and area of opportunity for those of us passionate about building a sustainable internet.
The scary thing is that government regulation on ISPs won’t impact the hundreds of millions of dormant IPv4 addresses. Furthermore, consumer pressure groups focused on data centers likewise ignore the waste of power required by allocated but unused IPv4 addresses. We need a system that incentives businesses with stocks of IPv4 addresses to reintroduce them to useful life, rather than drawing on our limited natural resources every hour of every day with no end in sight.
Think of what GoDaddy did for URLs in the early 2000s—democratizing a secure marketplace for web addresses. No longer did businesses have to sit on unused URL inventory—they could reintroduce it to a marketplace for someone else to use it. We need to do something similar for allocated IPv4 addresses that are no longer in use. We need awareness and advocacy.
Yes, ISPs play a big role in sustainable internet. Data centers do as well. However, to ignore the role that you and your organization play is foolhardy. Let’s reward businesses for drawing down their inventory of dormant IPv4 addresses by giving them a platform to lease them securely. Businesses should also recognize and react appropriately to the individuals who spearhead drawing down their power wasting unused IPv4 inventory.
This collaboration will reduce the amount of allocated IPv6 addresses while simultaneously dramatically lowering the amount of dormant IPv4 addresses. If you an influence your organization to realize a new revenue stream of leasing their IPv4 addresses, we will have solved one of the major challenges of building a sustainable internet. It is achievable, but it is up to each one of us to champion the reduction of sleeping IPv4 addresses at our businesses.