IPv4 address transfers must meet policy, ARIN chief says

Compliance comments come as Microsoft plans to buy more than 666,000 IPv4 addresses from bankrupt Nortel

The chief executive of the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) said today that any transfer of IPv4 addresses from one organization to another will need to be compliant with established ARIN policy.

Address transfers that do not adhere to policy, or those that have not been approved by ARIN can be revoked and the addresses assigned to other parties, CEO John Curran said.

Curran was responding to Computerworld's questions regarding Microsoft's plan to purchase a block of more than 666,000 IPv4 addresses from Nortel, for $7.5 million.

Nortel, a bankrupt Canadian telecom equipment maker, is selling the addresses as part of its continuing efforts to raise money to pay off its creditors.

The proposed transaction, which is awaiting approval by the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, has raised questions about Microsoft's motives for the purchase, as well as ARIN policy regarding such transfers.

Some speculated that the Microsoft was hoarding IPv4 addresses because of dwindling supply. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in February had announced that it had used up its last block of IPv4 addresses, and that any supplies remaining with regional registries would soon run out.

Some have raised questions about how Microsoft would be able to make such a purchase without showing a demonstrable and immediate need for the addresses as required under ARIN policy.

Microsoft's vice president of global foundation services, Dayne Sampson, suggested the purchase was intended to support Microsoft cloud strategy. "Microsoft continues to assess opportunities to acquire useful assets, whether they are from Nortel or other sources to support the tremendous growth of our online services, particularly enterprise cloud services," he said by email.

Curran today refused to discuss the specifics of Microsoft's planned purchase. But in general, any reallocation of IPv4 addresses between two parties needs to absolutely meet ARIN policy requirements, he said.

Under current policy, if a company is acquired by another, all of its IP addresses automatically transfer to the acquiring entity. ARIN policy also allows one party to return its IPv4 addresses to ARIN or to designate them to a third-party, Curran said.

Companies that are allocating their address to a third party can ask for compensation if they want to, he said. However, the acquiring party is required to show an immediate and appropriate need for the addresses, he said.

"We are in the final stage of depletion of IPv4," Curran said. "If you request address space from ARIN we will look at the immediate need for three months and issue address space to cover that period."

Existing transfer policies allow up to 12-months worth of address space to be transferred from one entity to another, he said.

In general, the goal is to ensure that the remaining IPv4 addresses are allocated as fairly as possible and to prevent organizations from using money to purchase large address blocks for which they have no immediate use, he said.

In the event a transfer violates policy, ARIN can revoke the addresses and assign it to others that need it, Curran said.

"We have revoked resources before and there certainly is enough demand for IPv4 resources right now," that there won't be any problem reassigning it to others, he said.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

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