Ditch spreadsheets for proper IPAM, says Forrester

It’s the time of the year for resolutions, and an industry analyst says one of them should be a vow to get rid of spreadsheets for handling key core network service information.

“Sometimes people miss the basic things that make the infrastructure go,” says Andre Kindness, enterprise networking analyst at Forrester Research and co-author of a report released this month on the need for organizations to overhaul their Internet address management.

“Most organizations are running on spreadsheets or scripting tools, and it’s surprising,” he said. But they don’t realize that their networks will only go as fast as the slowest link. And if it takes s day to allocate an address change in the data centre, that’s the slowest link.

“Sometimes people miss the basic things that make the infrastructure go,” he said.

But as an increasing number of devices include Internet addresses – including HVAC (heating/airconditioning) sensors, flow controls and vending machines – and the push to IPv6, organizations are going to see the number of IP address they manage skyrocket.

Every company needs sophisticated Dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP), Domain name service (DNS) and IP address management (IPAM), Forrester argues.

IP address management (IPAM) solutions come from a number of companies including Alcatel-Lucent’s VitalQIP products, Toronto’s BlueCat Networks, BT Diamond IP (a partnership with British Telecom) and Infoblox Inc.

In September, BlueCat released version 3.7 of its Proteus IPAM solution. The company says administrators can now more easily perform fuctions such as adding hosts, IP addresses and DHCP information directly from the Proteus home page.

The same month BT Diamond IP BT Diamond IP announced today the availability of Sapphire version 4.1, which supports the newly updated Sapphire hardware platforms and allows auto-boot from a USB for customers who deploy appliances to remote locations which have limited technical resources.

Last month Infoblox announced enhancements to its Trinzic IPAM for Microsoft’s domain name system (DNS) and dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) servers.

Some solution are overlay systems, some are “rip and replace” while at least one offers a hosted solution, Kindness says. As with any product, network managers have to carefully evaluate the pros and cons of each solution and the competencies of your staff.

Complaints that organizations rely too much on spreadsheets for IPAM aren’t new. Kindness acknowledges that when he tells companies they need to modernize “ninety-nine per cent of the time they agree. The problem is it is not a sexy area, so on the list of things to do, it’s way at the bottom.”

But, he said, “it’s the dial tone of the network.”

“It’s like security. People don’t want to deal with it until something happens.”

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