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Chapter6 Building the global IP address management structure


In addition to the reform of IP address management policy described in Chapter 5, responding to the explosive expansion of the Internet into the 1990s also required establishment of a structure for smooth IP address distribution to Internet users throughout the world. Accordingly, relevant parties all over the world, including JPNIC, endeavored to improve the IP address management framework. Ultimately, operations were distributed on a global scale by dividing the service areas among RIRs and delegating IP address management authority to ISPs. Supporting that framework, the current policy development process has been structured to enable all relevant parties, including users and providers, to participate directly while still maintaining global consistency.

Departure from overconcentration at The NIC

As described in Chapter 2, IP addresses were originally managed uniformly by Jon Postel and The NIC in the 1980s. But then, towards the end of the decade, Daniel Karrenberg of Europe and Jun Murai of Japan lead a far-sighted experiment of bulk assignments. The bulk assignment to Japan was carried out by the Network Address Coordination Committee, and it was taken over by what was then JNIC in 1992. Thus the operational structure, management rules and membership system were streamlined together with JP domain names. This movement became the first step towards a big movement in IP address management, shifting from centralized management by the NIC/IANA to decentralized management by multiple organizations.

Globally, on the other hand, the IAB released RFC 1174[119] entitled “IAB Recommended Policy on Distributing Internet Identifier Assignment and IAB Recommended Policy Changes for the Internet ‘Connected’ Status” in 1990, when many commercial Internet connectivity providers were entering the market in the U.S. In the RFC, the IAB proposed to consider the central NIC as the main registry for IP addresses and AS numbers, allocate IP address and AS number blocks to the “organizations approved by CCIRN (Coordinating Committee for Intercontinental Research Networking)”[120] and “delegate to them further assignment authority” (RFC 1174 1.3).

APNIC Pilot Project

In response to this, consideration of establishing a NIC in the Asia Pacific region started gradually at APCCIRN (Asia Pacific Coordinating Committee for Inter-continental Research Networking)[121] from around 1992. At that time JNIC was distributing IP addresses for Japanese networks. Through its experience, JNIC was of the opinion that the same delay of the assignment at the NIC as was experienced in Japan might occur throughout Asia, due to language barriers and excess applications from specific areas. From this viewpoint, Murai, the director of JPNIC, and Masaki Hirabaru, the chair of the JPNIC Steering Committee, made a proposal entitled “A Proposal for APNIC experiments”[122] to APCCIRN in January 1993, which led to the full scale deliberation of establishing APNIC[123].

That proposal was then fleshed out through further consultations, before being submitted to the APCCIRN meeting held in August 1993 as “Asia Pacific Network Information Center Pilot Project Proposal”. The proposal was approved, and with that APNIC started its service in the form of a pilot project on September 1, 1993[124].

In APNIC, participants from Australia, South Korea and Thailand, as well as from Japan, worked together and shared the workload[125]. Among others, it was JPNIC which took a leadership role in promoting the pilot project by offering 10% of its budget for APNIC's operations[126][127] and providing the University of Tokyo Computer Centre, used as the JPNIC office then, as the operating base of APNIC.

Several people from JPNIC including Hirabaru and Masaya Nakayama were involved in this pilot project. David R. Conrad, who was working for the Internet Initiative Japan Inc. (IIJ) at that time, also joined them to promote the project as a primary figure. Conrad served as the first Director General of APNIC, worked full time to operate APNIC and expanded the service structure until he handed the role over to Paul Wilson in 1998.

Establishment of three RIR framework

In Europe, Karrenberg and other relevant players established RIPE NCC[128], which started IP address management before APNIC[129]. The NIC – which had been the central NIC – was transferred from the Defense Department to NSF, and changed its name to InterNIC in 1993[130]. APNIC was founded soon after, resulting in a three RIR framework to carry out IP addresses management throughout the world as follows:

  • InterNIC: North and South America and sub-Saharan Africa
  • RIPE NCC: Europe and North Africa (north of the Sahara)
  • APNIC: Asia Pacific

Later, LACNIC (The Latin American and Caribbean IP address Regional Registry)[131] for Latin American and the Caribbean region started business in 2002, and AFRINIC (African Network Information Centre)[132] for the African region was launched in 2005. The five RIR framework has continued to the present day.

RIR-NIR-LIR framework

As described above, IP address management has evolved from centralized management by the NIC into decentralized management by the RIRs. Further, as shown in the previous chapter, it became a norm for IP addresses to be distributed according to CIDR technology[133] as opposed to a simple first-come, first-served scheme. Through CIDR, the addresses were allocated to ISPs in blocks, and the ISPs assigned addresses from those blocks to their end users. Moreover, in the Asia Pacific region, the NICs of each country, including JPNIC, were deeply committed to establishing APNIC and undertook a prominent role in reducing the linguistic and cultural barriers[134]. This created a framework unique to the region, which also needed to be maintained. As a result, a hierarchical structure comprising global, regional, national and ISP levels was incorporated in IP address management practices.

At the same time, in the globally expanding Internet, it was clear that the IPv4 address pool was indeed in danger of exhaustion, making it necessary for all the different management organizations to share an appropriate distribution procedure which placed a priority on address conservation.

When RIRs began allocating address blocks to ISPs, the ISPs became referred to as Local Internet Registries (LIRs)[135]. An LIR is equivalent to an IP Address Management Agent of JPNIC. Designating ISPs as registries helped to clarify the responsibility that ISPs bear for IP address management. Responsibility here means conforming to IP address policies that embrace the five principles of uniqueness, registration, aggregation, conservation and fairness (refer to Chapter1). With regard to “conservation” – which is particularly important for IPv4 – the “assignment window” system (which will be described later) was implemented to coordinate the screening criteria applied when determining the size of assignment and effectively responding to the demand for addresses.

As ISPs became known as LIRs, so too the NICs of several countries handling IP addresses in the APNIC region started to be called National Internet Registries (NIRs). NIRs are the organizations taking charge of address management at the country or economy level, and JPNIC is one of the seven NIRs now in place in the Asia Pacific region (as of 2015)[136]. At first, APNIC positioned national NICs as confederations of ISPs and distributed IP addresses to them. However, a variety of administrative concerns led to the suspension of the confederation membership category. As a result of discussions initiated in 2000, APNIC released formal NIR Criteria[137] and NIR Operational Policies[138] in 2002, to clarify the authority and function of NIRs. More recently, in 2012, the relationship between APNIC and NIRs was also defined contractually in “APNIC and NIR Member Relationship Agreement[139]”.

The combined result of these developments is the hierarchical structure for address management in the Asia Pacific region, which consists of RIRs, NIRs and LIRs.

figure:hierarcht structure

Column: Assignment Window

In principle, since RFC 2050[140] was published, registries evaluate the detailed address usage plan submitted by a requester, then distribute the necessary and sufficient addresses to the requester. In this scheme, unstandardized criteria for evaluation carry a risk of unfair or inefficient distribution. Therefore, to share the common criteria for evaluation, the RIRs deployed the assignment window system.

An assignment window is given by an RIR as the maximum IP address block that the LIR can assign to its connecting organizations on its own discretion. When assigning a block of addresses that exceeds the assignment window, the LIR cannot complete the evaluation by itself and must make a “second opinion request” for the RIR to review and approve the proposed assignment.

The RIR closely reviews the LIR's judgments for assignment sizes, and it may request LIRs to reconsider their judgments if necessary. The criteria of the review is shared through this procedure and, when the RIR is satisfied that the LIR has demonstrated it is capable of assigning a larger size through its autonomous judgments, the RIR will raise the LIR’s assignment window.

In case of LIRs under an NIR, the NIR set the assignment window in the way described above. Additionally, a similar quota system called the “allocation window” is applied to NIRs. In this way, RIRs, NIRs and LIRs are able to divide the responsibility for evaluating IP address assignment according to consistent criteria, further enabling expansion of the scale of the IP address allocation mechanism.

Transition of IP address policy development framework

In JPNIC, various rules and systems regarding IP address management have been developed and instituted in at the IP Address Working Group (IP-WG), which was formed by experts as members when JPNIC started IP address management.

Connectivity services offered by commercial Internet service providers started gradually in Japan in the beginning of the 1990s. The state of network construction has continued to change, and new issues have arisen in terms of securing IP addresses. Therefore, the IP-WG has always addressed policy issues in the context of providers' network construction, while simultaneously observing the principle of IP address conservation.

When RFC 2050, which defined IP address management rules, was being developed at the IETF in 1996, strong priority was given to address conservation. The IP-WG was concerned about this direction and thought that it was necessary to notify relevant parties in Japan, promote discussions, and ensure that the Japanese perspective was reflected in the IETF considerations. As a result, the IP-USERS mailing list was formed in 1996, and the IP-USERS offline meeting also started to be held at the same time[141]. In IP-USERS, not only RFC 2050-related matters but also various other issues regarding IP address management were discussed, which formed the foundation for the open and bottom-up policy development framework that is still applied.

Effort to establish global framework

Up to then, the IP address policies of JPNIC and APNIC were relatively independent. However, when the NIR framework was established at APNIC, it became necessary to maintain consistency in address policies between APNIC and JPNIC. So JPNIC reviewed IP address policy in IP-WG in 1999 and implemented a new IP address policy that was basically the same as that of APNIC in 2000.

At the APNIC meeting held in March 2000, the first Address Policy Special Interest Group (SIG) (the meetings to discuss IP address policies) was held[142]. Previously, policies such as that of address distribution were discussed as a part of the discussion at the APNIC Annual Member Meetings. But discussion of address distribution policies became an independent session around this time, and it also became clear that address policies would be implemented based on the consensus of the SIG. Takashi Arano, the then chair of JPNIC IP-WG, was appointed as the first chair of the Address Policy SIG. Following that, JPNIC executives and staff started to make proposals and participate proactively in the discussions of APNIC.

At this time the IP-USERS mailing list already existed in JPNIC, and offline meetings were held on a regular basis. As the framework of the Address Policy SIG was established in APNIC, the title of the IP-USERS meeting was changed to the JPNIC Open Policy Meeting (JPOPM)[143] in 2001. In JPOPM, emphasis was given to affinity with the processes of APNIC. Further, the Policy Working Group[144] formed by both JPNIC and volunteers started within JPOPM in 2004, to enhance the independence of the policy forum. At the same time, the policy development process[145] was explicitly documented, and then the present framework was established whereby the Policy WG recommended address policies to JPNIC based on the consensus of JPOPM.

After the three RIR framework was established, the RIRs took a leading role in the actual operations and policy development related to the distribution of IP addresses. IANA used to manage the pool of the entire IP address space, assign /8 IPv4 blocks[146] to RIRs, and manage the ledger and reverse DNS. However, with the founding of ICANN in 1998, IANA’s structure of policy development regarding IP address management was also streamlined.

In ICANN, Supporting Organizations (SOs) are set according to the type of Internet resources, and these SOs make recommendations to the board regarding respective resources. For IP addresses, the Address Supporting Organization (ASO)[147] was established with a mandate to review and develop recommendations for IANA service policy regarding distribution of IP addresses and AS numbers. RIRs call the service policy the global policy. The global policy is developed not in ICANN meetings, but in the forums of each RIR. When a consensus is reached at all the RIR forums, it is coordinated by the Address Council (AC) of ASO and recommended to the ICANN Board. The AC was set up in 1999, and Takashi Arano, who was then chair of the IP-WG, served as the AC member from Japan[148].

In this manner, the registry framework has been improved along with the development of the Internet. The IP address management framework - including IANA, RIRs, LIRs, and the structure to build consensus regarding address policy - has also been streamlined. This present scheme, which takes account of the unique needs of each region while maintaining global consistency, is well established. JPNIC has continuously worked on improving the framework and has proactively engaged itself in the activities of the APNIC Executive Council and the ICANN ASO AC since their foundation, by sending its executives, staff and committee members.

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[119] V. Cerf, “B Recommended Policy on Distributing Internet Identifier Assignment and IAB Recommended Policy Change to Internet `Connected' Status”, RFC 1174, August 1990

[120] Organization that coordinates global mutual connection of research networks. It played an important role, particularly in the early days of the Internet.

[121] Asia Pacific version of the CCIRN

[122] M. Hirabaru, J. Murai, “A Proposal for APNIC experiments”, APCCIRN-020, January 1990

[123] Asia Pacific Network Information Centre

[124] J. Murai, D. Conrad, “Asia Pacific Network Information Center Pilot Project Proposal”, apnic-003, September 1993

[125] Those who were involved in APNIC at the time can be seen in the Midterm Status Report.

APNIC Staff, “Asia Pacific Network Information Center Pilot Project Midterm Status Report”, apnic-006, October 1993

[126] The 2nd JPNIC Board meeting minutes, Chapter 2

[127] APNIC Staff , “Asia Pacific Network Information Center Pilot Project Midterm Status Report”, December, 1993,

[128] Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre

[129] The History of RIPE

[130] Williamson, S., “Transition and Modernization of the Internet Registration Service”, RFC 1400, March 1993,

[131] LACNIC

[132] African Network Information Centre

[133] Refer to Chapter5.

[134] Classless Inter-Domain Routing. Refer to Chapter5.

[135] JPNIC Internet 1-minute glossary - What is LIR? -

[136] Apart from the APNIC region, there are two NIRs in the LACNIC region (Mexico, Brazil). NIRs in the LACNIC region have less authority than those in the APNIC region, and they play a role similar to agents of LACNIC.

[137] “Criteria for the recognition of NIRs in the APNIC region”, APNIC-104, December 2002

[138] “Operational policies for National Internet Registries in the APNIC region”, APNIC-103, August 2008

[139] “APNIC and NIR Member Relationship Agreement”, APNIC-126, March 2013

[140] K. Hubbard, M. Kosters, D. Conrad, D. Karrenberg, J. Postel, “INTERNET REGISTRY IP ALLOCATION GUIDELINES”, RFC 2050, November 1996

[141] Mailing List – JPNIC

[142] APNIC - Policy SIG

[143] Onsite forum held in the past – JPOPF (history of JPOPMs)

[144] JPOPF Wiki (Open policy forum Web site operated by the Policy WG)

[145] “IP address policy development process at JPNIC,” JPNIC public document – 01177

[146] 1/256 address space for the whole IPv4 address space, which is the same size as a Class A address. Refer to Column of Chapter 5.

[147] The Address Supporting Organization

[148] When AC was set up in October 1999, APNIC Executive Council appointed the AC representatives, taking into account the nominations, due to limited time and opportunity. The first election of AC was carried out in October 2000.