Why IP Address Management (IPAM) Matters
Today's economy relies heavily on the internet, with every connected device depending on the IP protocol. Connecting to the internet requires an IP address that provides a unique identifier to route each connected device's incoming and outgoing data.
When the internet was still young, people manually typed the IP addresses into devices. However, by the early 2000s, the world had progressed into the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) era. During this era, IP addresses and other device settings such as Domain Name Servers used by connected devices were automatically assigned when connecting to the network.
After the automation of IP address assignments, the burden of managing those assignments transferred to service providers and enterprises managing the critical infrastructure service that DHCP has become; however, this task is by no means trivial. Besides the actual IP addresses, the network connectivity providers also have to manage the assignments of the networks from which the subnets are assigned. Furthermore, they must map the logical subnets to the physical network to users to transmit the Internet traffic.
This is where IPAM or Internet Protocol Address Management (IPAM) comes in. IPAM is a technique for organizing, tracking, and adjusting the information related to the IP addressing space for connected services that may contain tens of thousands of networks and millions of IP addresses. The resulting IPAM inventory involves planning, collecting, allocating, and managing an organization's IP addresses. IPAM inventory management also involves implementing real-time updates and monitoring the IP status within a network.
The Evolution of IPAM
In the early days of networking, IPAM networks typically grew directly proportional to the number of connected users. This proportionality kept the number of addresses to a reasonable limit, enabling administrators to keep tabs on their IP inventory with spreadsheets and documents. Unfortunately, these files had to be created and maintained manually, resulting in a labor-intensive process prone to human error. Such mistakes quickly lead to the incorrect configuration of network components, leading to malfunction and potentially catastrophic downtime.
As networks matured and technology advanced, the number of devices and endpoints to manage also increased, expanding IPAM workloads beyond the realistic capacity of manual management techniques.
The first generation of IP Address Management tools emerged to tackle this problem. Systems typically included tools for IP scanning, IP address tracking, and information management. These tools helped administrators with more up-to-date IP assignments and address availability records.
However, these first-generation implementations have their limits. With the on-march of public cloud services, many enterprises and telecoms integrate public cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure with their networks. Since traditional IPAM systems have been designed only with on-premise computing in mind, they are not cut out to manage the increasingly complex hybrid cloud environments.
At the same time, we are already seeing other emerging technologies that make the networks even more complex to manage. For example, cloud-native application architectures often involve containers that automatically scale in or out dynamically based on usage. As a result, the edge cloud may potentially increase the number of managed individual network environments from dozens to even thousands. On top of that, network and application automation systems require real-time network data access to avoid service issues and connectivity outages. Because of this, it is becoming increasingly clear that traditional IPAM solutions need to be more advanced.
Why A New Approach to IPAM is Required
Today, increasing network complexity created by hybrid cloud, edge cloud, and private 5G is exacerbated by environments in which remote work and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) can bring a three to fivefold increase to the number of network endpoints associated with a single user. In this atmosphere, modern IPAM solutions demand management capabilities far beyond traditional IPAM. In response, some contemporary services provide DDI or "DHCP, DNS, and IPAM" bundled into a single offering. However, these bundles cannot often communicate outside of their closed systems.
With enterprise networks growing increasingly large and complex, administrators also require greater visibility into their organizational assets. Consider, for example, a situation where someone is running traditional IPAM in a hybrid enterprise environment and is managing those subnets and IPs in the IPAM system. At the same time, that organization may be running Amazon Web Services (AWS) connected to their enterprise network via VPC with subnet management only in the AWS portal.
With no unified visibility across the enterprise's on-premises and hybrid cloud networks, tracking network changes becomes challenging, including the what, where, who, and when. Beyond that, there is no unified access control for managing all of the associated subnets on-premise and in the cloud.
To resolve these issues, a modern solution using Software-Defined IPAM allows management of the organization's two separate systems (traditional IPAM on-premise, AWS portal) in the same place. That provides both visibility and security benefits.
A system providing automation also benefits an organization in the scenario described above. As it stands, enterprises have no single place where data can be accessed describing the current state of the entire network. However, with Software-Defined IPAM, there is a single source of truth for all network data -- be it on-premises, public cloud, or an edge cloud. This source of truth provides automation tools with the information they need to ensure that the subnets or IPs won't overlap and the visibility into the deployments, respectively, of the what and where.
In conclusion, digital transformation has brought forth an evolution of networks that demands an IP Address Management solution: a Network Source of Truth. It must maintain a real-time database of the entire network no matter where the deployments happen. Without a capable IPAM solution, enterprises and telecoms will be slowed down by manual management and miss out on multiple revenue opportunities. They will also operate with fear and uncertainty from not knowing when the next manual mistake might happen. Therefore, for the sake of network security, continuity, and flexibility, a capable IPAM is a must.
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