IP address management software enables you to plan, track, and manage the IP addresses on your computer network. It ensures that you are aware of the inventory of assignable IP addresses.
Every network uses IP addressing, from those serving large enterprises to small home networks. And it isn’t just devices like servers and workstations that have IP addresses but phones, tablets, and a variety of other devices as well. And as devices communicate more and more with each other, as well as using applications, databases, and a range of other services, both the importance of IP addresses and the complexity of managing them increases.
As if that weren’t enough, the eventual replacement of the IPv4 protocol with IPv6, with its vastly greater address space, means many more possible IP addresses, while currently requiring the simultaneous management of IPv4 and IPv6 addresses.
Drawbacks in Current Methods
For a long time, management of IP addresses was pretty basic, using shared spreadsheets that were updated whenever there was a change. If the process was well managed, and the number of addresses not excessive, everyone knew exactly where to look for the information.
But now, as in many areas of IT, spreadsheets are being superseded by a variety of more flexible services that promise to reduce administrative overhead while increasing flexibility and security. Spreadsheets are subject to human error, since they do not derive their information directly from the network. And they take a significant amount of time. Every time an IP address is provisioned or decommissioned, additional configuration work must be performed
DNS, IPAM, DHCP…and DDI
Effective IP address administration actually depends on three different services: Domain Name System (DNS), Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), and IP Address Management (IPAM).
A DHCP server is what assigns to IP addresses to devices. It’s important to keep in mind that DHCP is nothing more than a set of standards that define the DHCP address distribution function.
A DNS server is what maps a device (or a domain name) to the numerical IP address, and stores the results as DNS records.
IPAM software manages DHCP and DNS servers, tracks IP addresses, and prevents IP address conflicts.
Because of how closely these functions are related, there can be terminological vagueness about individual services. All of these services together are often known as a DDI solution (for DNS, DHCP, and IPAM), a term invented by Gartner. But IPAM is sometimes used to describe all of those functions as a whole, despite being only one of them.
DDI functionality can come through a cloud service provider as part of their service, can be resold as solutions to enterprise IT customers, be hardware-based in the form of an appliance, or be provided by managed service providers (MSPs) as a separate service.
IP Address Management Software
A good IP address management solution will tell a network administrator:
- How much free IP address space is left
- All of the subnets currently on the network, their size, how they are managed, and what their usage is. For a large enterprise with a number of facilities, this number can be quite large
- The hostname and hardware is associated with each IP address and when the IP address was assigned
- Whether each IP is static, dynamic, or reserved
- Which routers devices use as their default
All of this allows the administrator to optimally allocate network resources. If something goes wrong, an IPAM audit can make it much easier to troubleshoot or provide a report for regulatory compliance purposes. Various mandates, including Sarbanes-Oxley, require administrators to track and be able to report on who had access, from where, and when.
IPv6 permits a vastly larger address space than the currently used IPv4 protocol (128 bits vs. 32 bits), and includes new features such as Stateless Address Autoconfiguration. The demands for managing IPv6 are correspondingly larger. But these two protocols will coexist for quite some time. Users will need to organize their address space while using both protocols side by side, a task impossible without some form of IPAM software.
IP Address Management Solutions
IPAM tools provide a console for managing everything related to the DNS/DHCP and IP address setup, with network discovery, reporting, and alerts. Learn more.