Within the Internet, an autonomous system (AS) is a collection of connected Internet Protocol (IP) routing prefixes under the control of one or more network operators on behalf of a single administrative entity or domain that presents a common, clearly defined routing policy to the Internet.
Originally the definition required control by a single entity, typically an Internet service provider or a very large organization with independent connections to multiple networks, that adhere to a single and clearly defined routing policy, as originally defined in RFC 1771. The newer definition in RFC 1930 came into use because multiple organizations can run Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) using private AS numbers to an ISP that connects all those organizations to the Internet. Even though there may be multiple autonomous systems supported by the ISP, the Internet only sees the routing policy of the ISP. That ISP must have an officially registered autonomous system number (ASN).
A unique ASN is allocated to each AS for use in BGP routing. AS numbers are important because the ASN uniquely identifies each network on the Internet.
An Internet Protocol address (IP address) is a numerical label assigned to each device connected to a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication. An IP address serves two principal functions: host or network interface identification and location addressing.
Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) defines an IP address as a 32-bit number. However, because of the growth of the Internet and the depletion of available IPv4 addresses, a new version of IP (IPv6), using 128 bits for the IP address, was developed in 1995, and standardized in December 1998. In July 2017, a final definition of the protocol was published. IPv6 deployment has been ongoing since the mid-2000s.
IP addresses are usually written and displayed in human-readable notations, such as 172.16.254.1 in IPv4, and 2001:db8:0:1234:0:567:8:1 in IPv6. The size of the routing prefix of the address is designated in CIDR notation by suffixing the address with the number of significant bits, e.g., 192.168.1.15/24, which is equivalent to the historically used subnet mask 255.255.255.0.
The IP address space is managed globally by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), and by five regional Internet registries (RIRs) responsible in their designated territories for assignment to end users and local Internet registries, such as Internet service providers. IPv4 addresses have been distributed by IANA to the RIRs in blocks of approximately 16.8 million addresses each. Each ISP or private network administrator assigns an IP address to each device connected to its network. Such assignments may be on a static (fixed or permanent) or dynamic basis, depending on its software and practices.