The days when it was possible to track IP address assignments with a spreadsheet are long gone. Today’s networks have hundreds or thousands of devices — with more added or removed every day. This makes an IP address management (IPAM) application necessary for any network except the smallest ones.
What is IP Address Management (IPAM)?
IP address management (IPAM) is a means of planning, tracking, and managing the Internet Protocol address space used in a network. IPAM integrates DNS and DHCP so that each is aware of changes in the other (for instance DNS knowing of the IP address taken by a client via DHCP, and updating itself accordingly). Additional functionality, such as controlling reservations in DHCP as well as other data aggregation and reporting capabilities, is also common.
IPAM tools are increasingly important as new IPv6 networks are deployed with larger address pools, different subnetting techniques, and more complex 128-bit hexadecimal numbers which are not as easily human-readable as IPv4 addresses. IPv6 networking, mobile computing, and multihoming require more dynamic address management.
How Does IPAM Work?
IPAM, broadly speaking, works using the Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP), and the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) with neighborhood scanning. These protocols make it possible for IPAM to get data from all the devices in your network. For instance, the second one I mentioned, SNMP, has the role to gather and arrange information related to IP networks’ devices. This is important when modifying or changing the performance of a device.
IPAM can succeed in properly managing the IP address range on your network because it collects all the needed information through these monitoring and tech tools.
Using a spreadsheet to manage IP addresses is never a good idea!
It is not recommended to use spreadsheets to perform IP management duties, no matter the size of the address pool. This method is not only time-consuming to maintain but increasingly prone to human error, which can result in erroneous configurations in your network. With the proliferation of non-traditional connected devices such as IoT and BYOD, free IPAM is required more than ever. Non-adopters risk losing control of their allocation and introducing bottlenecks that could have catastrophic effects on their network and wider business. An IPAM solution lets administrators keep up-to-date records of IP assignments and available addresses. Records might include:
- Free/assigned IP address space
- Size and users of subnets currently in use
- Status for each IP address
- Hostname associated with each IP address
- Hardware associated with each IP address
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 the 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.
- Easier administration: for delegation of address space management; improved visibility over IP resources cross-platforms; automation of DNS-DHCP configurations and automatic real-time updates when a host connects/disconnects from TCP/IP network (if the IPAM is integrated with DNS and DHCP servers); built-in reports.
- 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.
- Enhanced reliability: lower risk of misconfigurations by avoiding overlapping subnets and conflicting IP addresses, and by enforcing FQDN; reduced network service downtime; faster troubleshooting.
- 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 health, it’s important to identify the root cause of issues and eliminate them ASAP.
By deploying IPAM at the core of their network, organizations can take control of their IP address and namespace and achieve more trustworthy service delivery and greater efficiencies and cost savings in network operations. To put it simply, by using IPAM organizations avoid finding themselves in the middle of a so-called IP chaos.