Long gone are the days where you could keep track of IP addresses, stations, and servers in a spreadsheet. A DDI/IPAM solution is a software that assists admins in the triage of DNS, DHCP and IP address management. Any network with just a few users could become confusing, especially when you start to add variables into it such as printers, mobile devices, etc. As devices pile in the network, it is most likely that things get disorganized, especially if you try to handle everything manually. IP addresses change, as if they had a life of their own, this creates waste, and it all together becomes unnecessarily confusing.
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Happily, there are plenty of options to choose from, both paid and free, which can help you organize every aspect of your network. An excellent and fully integrated DDI/IPAM solution typically consists of three essential elements:
- IP address management
- DNS services
- DHCP services
These are the core network services which must be configured for high availability and operational efficiencies. But these are mostly overlooked while setting up monitoring for a network. These services need to be monitored and managed so that the network engineers or sysadmins know when DNS Servers malfunction, IP address space is nearing its limit or even identifying IP conflicts etc.
Selecting the best IPAM tool for your needs
Any solution chosen should provide you with the necessary tools to configure, automate, integrate and administer services and IP addresses. These tools might come in different formats:
- Open source tools, which may or may not include all of the required features and functions.
- Hardware-based appliances, these might need to be replaced after a few years as tech changes and the world evolves and are the most expensive solutions.
- Software tools, these are usually licensed based and have to be renewed as you add more end-points to be managed.
- Cloud-based solutions might only be available through indeed managed service providers.
Free IPAM Software
NiPAP – Neat Address Planner
NiPaP is an open-source software solution that claims to be the best in the entire universe. We are not sure about such a claim. However, this software is written in Python and handles essential network management. It also has robust searchability and speedy automation. NiPaP comes with both a CLI option and a web-interface. This can come in handy for some of the older admins out there. Something to watch out about NiPaP is its versatility due to being written in Python. Nevertheless, you have to brush up those programming skills if you want to get the full benefits.
- CLI interface available
- Proper documentation
- Full support of IPv6.
- A bit challenging to take the full benefits of the software, you need to know some programming in python if you’d like more functionality.
IP Plan – IP address management and tracking system
IP Plan focuses mainly on the Linux/UNIX infrastructures from Fedora to Ubuntu and from CentOS to RHEL. Unfortunately, it seems this tool is no longer updated or at least it hasn’t been for a while. Nonetheless, as it’s open source, you can always try to put it to work to your needs. Something to point out about IP Plan is that it does what is supposed to do. IP Plan is an excellent choice to manage Linux and Unix environments regardless of the size.
- Simple to use
- Versatile due to being open source.
- It lacks updating
- It could be hard to find support.
Download: IP Plan
PhpIPAM – Open source IP address management
PhpIPAM is a modern and robust open source IPAM solution. It’s entirely based on PHP with a MySQL backend and HTML5/CSS3 features among others. Likewise, it is robust in the features that it offers. Your users can even request IPs within the IP request module. Also, the PowerDNS integration makes working with DNS less of a hassle. It also provides Active Directory and LDAP integration.
- Great UI
- Continually being improved by the developer
- Good community.
- Some people pointed out security flaws
- Lack of various record modification.
Microsoft Windows Server IPAM Module
Microsoft IPAM module is similar to other IPAM solutions. It shares all the main features such as IP planning, managing IP addresses, tracking and forecasting IP address usage, etc. To use Microsoft’s IPAM a Windows Server infrastructure is required, this might be a limitation for those who would like to have this option as stand-alone, as it not available. Nevertheless, if you are already on a Microsoft infrastructure, it might be simpler for you to adopt this solution. Overall, if you are a Microsoft adept, you will find Microsoft’s IPAM to be as manageable as any other Microsoft product.
- Easy to install
- Free as part of the Windows Server family
- Integrated with other Microsoft products
- Not available as stand-alone product
- Incompatible with non-Microsoft infrastructure
Paid IPAM/DDI Tools
Infoblox Trinzic is a hardware appliance with the ability to help manage and aid your network’s health. It fits on any network just the same way a router or a switch would. The interface is also simple and hassle-free. However, it does not offer anything different from any of the software solutions. As Infoblox is a hardware piece, if it ever fails it could be difficult to replace quickly.
- Easy to install
- Centralized management tools
- Hardware based
- Could be hard to replace
- It’s expensive, it does not offer anything different from any other software-based IPAM
LightMesh shares the same features as its counterparts as far as basic IP/DNS/DHCP tracking and discovery, as well as monitoring and detection of MAC addresses. Nevertheless, its strength is a very intuitive interface that makes it very easy to use. LightMesh also includes a REST-based scripting language so that you can write your automation scripts. This piece of software is most suitable for small to mid-sized businesses.
- Intuitive and easy to use UI
- Excellent automation tools.
- No trial
- A bit expensive
BlueCat focuses mainly on the enterprise environment. It permits the admin the ability to adjust DNS/IP configurations without much trouble easily. BlueCat also allows to efficiently delegating permissions to different groups enabling them to specific portions of the network and allowing you to choose the set of tools these groups have available. As this is an enterprise-grade tool, it could be costly if you have a small business.
- Perfect for big groups of admins
- Excellent support
- It does not offer anything different from less costly tools
- No trials offered
While many products serve the purpose of DDI, it is true that these tools serve a central purpose in any network infrastructure. DDI offerings address the customary lag involved when a business seeks to set up an IP address. Something to look for is automation as it has become quite significant today. I hope that this guide helps you choose the right tool for your business. What is your favorite tool to monitor and manage DNS, DHCP and IP? Did we miss anything on this list? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.