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While attending Tech Field Day #5, INFOBLOX presented their IP Address Management (IPAM) application, Insight,  to the group.  The goal of this product is to help you to manage your IP Addresses via an application instead of the traditional approach.  My initially reaction to this was – Why?  Why would a company need this box to managed IP addresses? Isn’t that what Microsoft DHCP/DNS does?

When you think of IPAM in a company you typically think about using either spreadsheet applications, or DHCP with a combination of DHCP reservations.  This approach works well, but to be honest it does have its limitations.  It does not scale well, it can really only be used by one person at a time (spreadsheets), the database is subject to corruption on the server, and changes get lost because someone was working on a copy of a copy of a copy.  We have all been there and seen it, managing an IP scheme via spreadsheet is possible – but has its challenges.  There has to be a better way, and that is what INFOBLOX thought as well.

In my experience, as a company grows, each sites starts to “control their IP destiny” in different ways.  These can be via VLANs that have different IP ranges; IP ranges that are not contiguous; IP ranges that are way too big for the task at hand (can you say /16), or even not keeping like servers in like segments (i.e. all Exchange boxes across an enterprise with an IP of 10.x.1.50/24).  I won’t even go into the problem of someone just putting on IP on a device, only later to find out that it is a duplicate IP address for a critical server.  An IPAM application can assist in identifying these problems, rectifying them with rules, as well as checks and balances.

Another common problem is DNS across an enterprise.  There is typically one group who controls access to this system, and if you want a change you either need to e-mail them or open a ticket with the Support Desk.  This process can add time to a deployment, is subject to error, or just upright confusion when you say you want MyRouter.MyDomain.Network to map to these multitude of IP Addresses.  Yes, it does work and gets the workload off you plate, but there has to be a better way.  Also when it comes to DNS, I tend to want to use Router-Interface.location for DNS entries, and that can be tough to explain to someone who is used to Server.domain.

So, what does INFOBLOX do that makes it so much better.  Well, that is simple – just gives you central location via the web to manage your IPAM.  No more spreadsheets, no more IP address surprises, and no more what addresses are available questions.  Their product allows you to have a central repository of all IP addresses across your enterprise.  You are able to find available IP addresses easily, and then quickly assign them to a new device.  What is also cool is that the product can map out an IP address to a port on a switch (provided SNMP and such is enabled).  The product will scan your network for new IP addresses that have appeared on the network, build IP maps based of the discovery, as well as provide you the location of said device (uses SNMP to poll switches and such) if you want to know where it is.

The SNMP feature is great just for the Server guys in my opinion – they can find out where something is located instead of always asking the Network team.  They can use this feature to find out speed, duplex, mac address, switchport connection, switch information, etc.  That feature alone is worth the price of admission if you ask me!  Many times I am asked “Where is this connected?”; “What speed and duplex do you see?”; “What are the switchport capabilities 100/100?”  – with this tool those calls will no longer be there.

There is a demo available that you can actually download and run under VMWare Player (VMPlayer) so you can actually take it for a test run.  To be honest, it is a bit tough to figure out at first (I probably should read the help file) – but I think the product is worth it.  It makes it easier to manage the network, see what IP addresses are in use, as well as what the device is.  To get the demo, you need to provide your information and they will then send you a link to download the software – you can find the request page here – http://www.infoblox.com/en/resources/freeware.html.  The VMWare Player is available here as well (VMWare account required).

Tech Field Day Disclosure

INFOBLOX was a sponsor of Tech Field Day 5, and as such was responsible for a portion of my airfare and hotel accommodations.  At no time did INFOBLOX ask for nor were they promised any kind of consideration in this article.  Any and all analysis and opinions are mine and mine alone.

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