IPAM: A key component of the IT automation initiative

12 September 2017

Walk around any data center anywhere in the world, and while you’ll see a lot of servers, you won’t see many people. That’s because they’re automated, the tasks that used to require teams of operators are now handled by software.

Those empty halls are a sign of the huge changes that have swept through IT over the last decade. Servers may still fill our racks, but they’re now just the foundation of a compute and storage fabric that hosts virtual infrastructures. There may be a few hundred white boxes in our racks, but they’re hosting ever-changing software-defined networks of thousands of virtual machines and containerized applications, all deployed and managed by automated systems.

Automating IT makes a lot of sense, but it also brings a new set of problems. If we don’t know what’s running where, how can we control our networks?

Take back control

One key technology that helps take back control is IPAM, IP Address Management. Understanding what addresses have been allocated, to what, and why, is an important factor for any modern IT management platform, especially when you’re dealing with virtualization tools at scale such as OpenStack, vRealize  and HP CSA. Anywhere you’re using orchestrators to handle the deployment of networked services, you’re going to need to manage IP addresses. The key to modern IPAM is the ability to centralize much of what used to be handed out to other tools, speeding up response and working across complex hybrid cloud infrastructures. It’s also key to managing the wider scale aspects of modern networks.

Modern IPAM tools go a lot further than legacy approaches, allowing us to categorize devices and networks, and deploy specific devices on specific networks. Need to know how many virtual machines you deployed on top of various AWS accounts ? All you have to do is query the IPAM database, and as IPAM tools integrate with configuration management databases and other key systems management tooling, that information is at your fingertips and in your dashboards.

If you’re still using a basic IPAM solution like Microsoft’s Windows Server implementation, there’s scope for a migration to a more efficient solution. Tools like EfficientIPs integrate IPAM into DNS and DHCP servers directly, so you’re able to easily manage large networks which scale up rapidly, without investing in additional hardware and software – keeping costs to a minimum. They’re also able to work with cloud infrastructures, handling allocation of IP addresses to new virtual servers and containers, either when they’re deployed according to a continuous integration approach  or when they’re created to scale an already running application.

Like much of the modern IT world, IPAM automation is handled via APIs, making it simple to bring them into your existing management infrastructure. You don’t need to learn new skills to improve your IP management, just up to date IPAM tooling.

A new approach

There’s an old metaphor that describes the way IT management has changed over the years. It’s like a farm, first with one cow that’s been hand-reared and has a name that’s been chosen by the family. Then it’s a small herd, still with individual names, but simpler, easier to remember, and just written in the stock book. Next, a large farm, with cattle that have serial numbers and tags, scanned in and out of the feed lots. Those are how we used to manage IP addresses.

Now the farm is a huge ranch, with thousands of cows out in the ranges. There’s no way to name them, or even manually track them. That’s where modern IPAM comes in, tools and services that can handle operations at scale. It’s a scale that’s exploding too, as we move from managing tens, hundreds, thousands of devices to millions and as we move from IPv4 to IPv6. It’s also crossing boundaries, from familiar PCs and servers to IoT devices, and from on-premises to the cloud.

We need to be able to manage that scale, and those changes, while keeping control of our networks and the devices that run on them, ensuring they’re secure and that our network teams work as efficiently as possible. That means taking advantage of automation tooling and services, at all layers of the stack we’re using – and that means we need to start with our networks and the IP addresses we give our devices.

If you need a consistent view of everything in your network and want to be sure that your core services are available at all times, a modern IPAM, such as the one offered by EfficientIP, is an essential part of an automation and orchestration suite; if you don’t get it right, you’re going to lose control of your network just when it’s most important.

To learn about how IPAM automation can work to enhance the cloud, read more in “Boost Your Cloud Infrastructure Agility With Integrated DDI Automation“.