Every computer on the Internet needs its IP address, whether in America or Africa. That presents an extreme challenge. How does a computer user in Africa, Asia, or Albuquerque get an IP address…on demand? Can one system handle it all for everyone around the world? The answer is “no,” and that’s why there is something called a “Regional Internet Registry,” or RIR.
What is a Regional Internet Registry (RIR)?
The Regional Internet Registry, or RIR, is a nonprofit organization that manages internet number resources within a geographical region. Five RIRs operate in five regions across the globe in total, including AFRINIC, APNIC, ARIN, LACNIC, and RIPE NCC.
The resources that each RIR holds are allocated by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). However, autonomous system numbers (ASNs) and the IPv4 and IPv6 address spaces are distributed by RIRs. That means that internet service providers (ISP) and end-users get their resources directly from Regional Internet Registries.
The Number Resource Organization (NRO) coordinates between all five RIRs with a mission to protect the unallocated address space. It also builds the policies regarding the distribution of internet number resources. Needless to say, many cogs run in the process of allocating ASNs and IPs.
The Role of the RIR
The RIRs do not generate the IP addresses that they allocate. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is the Internet organization that allocates IP addresses to each RIR, which takes it from there, handling the next level of allocation. An RIR serves:
- Large regional entities, including Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
- Educational institutions
- Large corporations and organizations
Regional Internet Registry Members
RIR members include ISPs, governments, educational institutions, organizations, and end-users. Each RIR has different membership policies, but, in the end, they all serve anyone who needs internet resources. Regional Internet Registries oversee the allocation of Internet number resources in five different regions, including the following:
- AFRINIC – the African Network Information Center is a non-government, not-for-profit, membership-based organization, based in Mauritius. AfriNIC is the Regional Internet Registry responsible for resource allocation and registration services for the continent of Africa on behalf of the Internet community.
- APNIC – Asia-Pacific Network Information Center in Australia oversees the allocation of internet resources in East, South, and Southeast Asia as well as Oceania
- ARIN – the American Registry for Internet Numbers is the Regional Internet Registry for the administration and registration of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses in North America, parts of the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa.
- LACNIC – Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Center in Uruguay oversees the IP address space in the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America
- RIPE NCC – Réseaux IP Européens is an open and voluntary organization of European Internet service providers. RIPE NCC is the Regional Internet Registry for Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia.
Why RIRs are needed
Yes, there are millions of IP addresses available, but that number is not limitless. The current version of the IP address (technically known as IPv4) does not have an infinite number of addresses available. That fact made the Internet administration organizations realize there was an urgent need for up-close and smart management of the inventory of IP addresses. Put another way, the IP world realized there had to be enough IP addresses to go around for everyone, and a system for allocating them efficiently.
The RIR came up with guidelines to make it all work. Each RIR is required to follow a neutral policy of IP address allocation and distribution. That helps prevent one RIR from hoarding IP addresses for computer users in its geographical region or doing anything to put other regions at a disadvantage. After all, without ongoing access to IP addresses – which allows people to connect with other users locally and worldwide – a network is doomed.