With growing businesses, the number of devices in the network is also growing. It’s becoming more difficult for network administrators to manage and maintain the increasing number of IP addresses and devices. Along with other network-related responsibilities, they’re burdened with additional tasks like allocating, reallocating, assigning, and tracking of IP addresses. Traditionally, with fewer devices, it was easier for network administrators to manage IP addresses through manual methods such as maintaining an up-to-date spreadsheet or using homegrown tools. However, where the networks have become more dynamic, it’s nearly impossible to manage and maintain them through manual methods. In such cases, IP address management (IPAM) software becomes crucial. The role of IPAM is to automate IP address management tasks and allocate data in a centralized, easy-to-access, and user-friendly interface. It helps businesses keep track of IP addresses within a network and helps ensure seamless business connectivity.
Three Major Components of IP Address Management
Having a strategy and reliable tools in place can help businesses achieve effective IP address management. However, before chalking out the strategy, network administrators need to focus on the three major components of IP address management.
IP Address Inventory Management
IP address inventory management includes planning, collection, allocation, and management of the organization’s IP addresses. It’s also maintaining real-time updates and the status of the IPs within a network, so an organization’s fixed IP space can be used accordingly.
Domain Name Service (DNS) Management
DNS is one of the most important components of the internet. It ensures the quick and efficient availability of internet content for users. DNS management is important to maintain servers and zones. With proper DNS management, administrators can keep DNS servers up to date in accordance with IP address modifications.
Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) Management
DHCP is a network management protocol used to assign static and dynamic IP addresses to authorized IoT devices. DHCP servers automate the process of assigning IP addresses; at the same time, they need to be configured, used, and monitored properly to maintain availability and security of IP addresses. DHCP management also helps with automation and optimization of IP space in the network.
6 Challenges in IP Address Management
The advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has led to the addition of more devices in an organization’s network. Each device in an organization’s network must be allocated with a unique IP address. To accommodate the need for IP addresses, organizations need DHCP/DNS services to be high in performance and availability with simplified administration. Outlined below are a few challenges administrators face while performing IP management activities.
- Lack of Real-Time Data Availability
- Human Error
- Management of Multiple DHCP/DNS Services
- Multiple Admins for IP Management
- Vendor-Related Shortfalls
- Limited/Exhausted Budget
1. Lack of Real-Time Data Availability
Maintaining of IP address in spreadsheets is a cumbersome task. It’s challenging for the admin team to track all the IP addresses and difficult for teams to gather information related to the audit trail, such as what IP was assigned to which device. Besides, several people typically have access rights to these IP spreadsheets, which makes it more difficult to understand who updated what. With a lack of visibility into multi-vendor subnet allocations, IP utilization, and DHCP server configurations, admin teams end up spending a large amount of their time documenting and tracking IP addresses.
2. Human Error
In the growing network where IP requests and modification of records takes place every minute, tracking and updating such records manually leads to errors and inconsistencies. These small errors grow in number and eventually turn into bigger network issues like network downtime that can be expensive and time-consuming. Moreover, the lack of a centralized repository and its management leads to IP conflicts, such as the duplicate assignments of IP addresses. It’s very difficult to detect such issues, and in some cases can only be discovered by a user reporting the issue. It’s better to get notified in advance to avoid IP conflicts rather than investing a huge amount of money and time in resolving the issues.
3. Management of Multiple DHCP/DNS Services
With IP address requirements increasing, so does the need for high performing and availability servers such as DHCP and DNS in the network. In a growing network, administrators may also need to include DHCP and DNS servers from branch locations for managing the organization’s IP addresses. As the number of these servers increases, it becomes difficult to manage them. This leads to glitches, such as the decentralization of IP address management and limited integration of servers with the IP management software.
4. Multiple Admins for IP Management
When multiple admins handle network administration tasks like IP allocation, assignments, and updates, it becomes difficult to track changes in the records. It’s challenging for organizations to create workflow processes and for standard servers to find the modifications, as these servers perform the basic functions like input and configurations.
5. Vendor-Related Shortfalls
Manual documentation tasks and spreadsheets are a matter of concern when it comes to IP address management. These methods are time-consuming and error-prone and don’t meet administrative requirements like reporting, automation, alerting, and integration of DNS/DHCP servers. Although DHCP and DNS services come with a user-friendly GUI for easier management of IP addresses, sometimes they may cause issues like reduced performance. The reason for slow performance could be the single host providing multiple services such as DHCP, DNS, and hardware resources like Microsoft Exchange and MS services.
6. Limited/Exhausted Budget
Securing high performing, highly available, and scalable DNS/DHCP servers in the network should be an administrator’s number one priority. However, to offer high availability of servers, organizations need to invest in infrastructure and licensing tools. With budget restrictions and limitations, it’s challenging for administrators to design and develop an advanced and robust IP address management system.
7 Major Benefits of IPAM
With IP addresses needed for various microservices, databases, applications, and technological advances, it’s becoming challenging to manage them. At the same time, it’s essential to maintain these IP addresses, so devices can successfully establish communication and interoperability. Organizations of all types from large to small and Telco to ISPs use IPAM due to the advantages it offers to network administrators. Let’s understand the significant benefits of using IP address management.
- Centralized Repository for Accurate Record
- Easier Administration
- Reduced Complexity
- Enhanced Reliability
- High-End Security
- IPAM Compliance
- Maintenance of Network Health
1. Centralized Repository for Accurate Record
IPAM creates a centralized repository of IP addresses, networks, and subnets (private and public). It helps in the efficient management and maintenance of the IP address assignments and allocations, status of each IP address, hostname associated with each IP address, hardware associated with each IP address, free/assigned IP address space, and size of subnets and current users.
2. Easier Administration
IPAM solution helps simplify and automate several administration tasks of IP space management, including configuring DHCP settings and writing DNS records. Other functionalities include improved visibility over IP resources cross-platforms, automatic real-time updates, automation of DNS-DHCP configurations, built-in reports, and other data aggregation capabilities.
3. Reduced Complexity
IPAM uses a single centralized repository to help reduce the complexity of IP address management. It includes IP address space information collected from Regional Internet Registry (RIR). IPAM helps administrators manage both public and private IP address plans and discover networks, so information about several connected hosts can be gathered.
4. Enhanced Reliability
There’s always a high risk of misconfigurations, overlapping subnets, and IP address conflicts with growing networks. These risks negatively impact an organization’s entire network and increase the workload of network administrators. The use of IPAM software helps reduce these risks and increases troubleshooting time by enforcing Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN), which shows the exact location of a domain name in the tree hierarchy of a DNS server.
5. High-End Security
Securing network and connected devices is the priority of network administrators. Having access to IPAM data helps the admin team detect potential threats, data breaches, or misuse of devices within an organization’s network infrastructure. IPAM software provides crucial information about used IP addresses, what IP address is assigned to which device, the specific time of assignment, and the user of the assigned device. This information is useful in identifying patterns of security issues such as network misuse or data theft. To maintain data integrity and network’s health, it’s important to identify the root cause of issues and eliminate them ASAP.
6. IPAM Compliance
Besides a centralized repository of IP addresses, IPAM fulfills compliance requirements and audit trails. It helps the organization in providing mandatory information for maintaining regulatory compliance. It can deliver logs with network IP addresses and other related information.
7. Maintenance of Network Health
Organizations today are concerned about IP address conflicts and the duplicity of IP addresses already in use. While IPAM fulfills organizations’ security and compliance needs, it also provides an overview of the network’s overall health with various aspects of IP addresses—whether they’re static, dynamic, or reserved. It also provides a detailed report to provide a complete overview of the IP address’s status and what’s happening in the organization’s network.
Top 6 IPAM Tools for IP Management
There are several IPAM tools, both premium and free, unique features. However, an ideal IP address management solution needs to be able to the following functions:
- Manage all IP address tasks from a centralized location
- Manage a large pool of IP address, detect issues, and improve the availability of DNS and DHCP servers
- Provide access to authorized users based on specific roles and permissions
- Report on authoritative documentation
- Provide operational data for troubleshooting requirements, such as IP address data history and summarized reports on IP address resources and utilization
- Perform secure provisioning of IP addresses through cross-vendor or unified DHCP and DNS administration
Outlined below are my top IPAM tools to help enterprises with various IP address tasks such as assignments, utilization, communication, and more.
1. SolarWinds IP Address Manager
SolarWinds® IP Address Manager is an enterprise solution covering all the basic functionalities required to manage and maintain IP addresses. The tool is best for small, medium, and large enterprises. It automates IP scanning, DHCP/DNS management for tracking traffic, and IP management tasks via subnet discovery. Although these are some basic features almost every IP manager consists of, SolarWinds IP Address Manager is designed to monitor IP addresses and report subnet capacity issues before it impacts the overall network performance. It automatically detects, reports, and resolves DNS issues, IP conflicts, and issues. The extensive history tracking tool provides helpful logs for troubleshooting errors and comes with easy-to-understand and intuitive dashboards. Moreover, specific control permissions can be given to admins or admin groups.
The latest version of IP Address Manager also includes features such as additional polling engine support useful for scanning and polling multiple subnets in a faster way. This helps keep IPAM updated with the latest modifications within the network and subnets.
Businesses can try a free 30-day trial version. SolarWinds also offers a free IP Address Tracker tool with fewer features and functionalities capable of managing up to 254 IP addresses, viewing IP histories, monitoring subnets, event logs, and reporting IP conflicts.
2. BlueCat IPAM
BlueCat is another powerful IP address management tool that provides full control over an organization’s dynamic network. The tool offers centralized management capabilities, integrated core services, and interoperability across the network. It shows the relationships between devices, IP addresses, and users on your network. With this tool, teams can offer reliable services, improve security, and reduce manual administration. BlueCat tracks IP addresses using a centralized interface, reducing network administration time and cost of manual errors and managing DNS and DHCP services. The features of BlueCat IPAM include:
- Tracking and auditing
- Interoperability across environment
- Scheduled and on-demand deployments
- Web services API
- Automatic network discovery
- Full dual-stack support
- Integrated data validation tools
- Quick actions and workflow
- Network reconciliation policies
- Integration of IP Address, DNS and DHCP data
- Network visualization templates
- Flexible role-based access control
- Flexible network configurations
- Network templates
3. Infoblox Trinzic
Infoblox Trinzic is an all-inclusive IPAM with the base IPAM product, an express version for a smaller organization, add-ons for VMware virtualization, and IPAM for Microsoft server setups. Each version of Infoblox includes a comprehensive suite of features and functions to support address location, management, maintenance, and reporting. Infoblox IPAM doesn’t require additional support, appliances, or software to offer powerful benefits, like real-time visibility into IP logs and highly dynamic IPAM data, disaster recovery, and more. The tool includes an intuitive interface and highly customizable dashboard to suit the needs of the administrator’s role and responsibilities with widgets for easy access to frequently used functions. The tool organizes IP logs in smart folders with extendable attributes, which can be used by admins to define and assign customized properties to objects. Infoblox features include:
- Data consistency checking
- Shared record groups
- Name server group templates
- Network templates
- Ranges and fixed address templates
4. LightMesh IPAM
LightMesh is an excellent IPAM with a clean and user-friendly interface. It presents the IP log data to make it easier for admins to track IPs, identify errors, and resolve issues. It integrates well with an organization’s existing DNS and DHCP servers. It offers graphical subnet visualizations, so teams can easily view the intent of an IP plan. The time machine feature helps organizations review, roll back, and replay configuration changes. The tool also provides web-based and command-line utilities to discover every IP device on your network quickly. In addition to IPAM features, the tool takes care of the access controls with its fine-grained role-based access control mechanism designed to reduce the risk of data leakage.
GestióIP is a user-friendly, automated, web-based IPAM with support for IPv4 and IPv6. The tool comes with a suite of rich IPAM features including network discovery, IP tracking functions, control access, IP address management and maintenance, and search filets for both network and the host. The tool also offers a plugin for backing up logs and IP data and for configuration management on the network devices. The main features of this IPAM include four categories: data presentation, automation, integrated tools, and infrastructure integration.
- Network discovery through SNMP
- VLAN discovery via SNMP
- Host discovery via /SNMP/ping/DNS
- Integrated subnet calculator
- Web based interface (no additional software required)
- One-click ping and DNS A/PTR check
- An incorporated management system for leased and dial-up lines
- Split/join/scaling up/scaling down networks
- Integrated hierarchical IPv6 addressing plan
- Support for different clients with independent address spaces
- HA solution available
- Integration with Microsoft and Bind DNS server
- Customizable columns for networks and hosts
- An incorporated management system for autonomous systems
- Advanced search options
- Clear data presentation
- Shows free network ranges
- Offers internet search engine for powerful quick-search for networks and hosts
- An incorporated VLAN management system
NiPaP is a powerful, sleek, and intuitive IP address management system designed to manage and maintain a large amount of IP addresses. I think it’s one of the best open-source platforms. The software is written using Python and has several network management capabilities an organization needs, such as integrated statistics, quick automation, robust searchability, deep documentation procedure, and the option of web-interface or CLI.
Which Is the Best IPAM Solution?
Choosing an IPAM entirely depends on an organization’s requirements, such as the size of the organization and network, the number of devices within a network (including remote devices), and more. You should choose an IPAM solution capable of providing detailed information on the organization’s network health, meeting compliance needs, and securing the network from unusual network patterns or a network breach.
SolarWinds IP Address Manager is one such IPAM solution designed for organizations from small businesses to the enterprise. The tool provides core functionalities, with customizable features and a user-friendly interface. SolarWinds offers excellent customer support and a free trial version of IPAM.