Could Your IP Network Use More Automation?

Abstract technology business template background.

This blog series will talk about how IP management (and various forms of it) form a key part of streamlining and automating a Communication Service Provider’s (CSP) network. Everyone knows that automation is a good thing, but the question is how much automation is appropriate, when to introduce it, and how to incorporate it into the network. Over the next year, I hope to share some of the experiences and lessons learned from people I have worked with.

The first thing I will deal with is IP Address Management (IPAM) and DHCP, DNS and IPAM (DDI) approaches. Traditionally, IPAM solutions provided a central inventory of IP addresses and the ability to delegate them to various parts of the network. DDI evolved from IPAM to differentiate solutions that also configured and managed DNS and DHCP services on your network. This is a form of automation, but on a specific network who says that automation must include these activities?

There are some solutions that may not have complete control over the DNS service. More importantly, why can’t the automation include other things like routing elements as well? I am going to use the term IPAM automation to cover the automation of any IP related configuration on the network.

Let’s recap some key questions:

  • What triggers can change the equation?
  • When does automation become equally or more important than all the other priorities on the network?
  • How does IP management support your goals to automate your network?

Having worked with multiple service providers on IPAM-related projects, I find there are a couple common triggers that you can watch out for to answer these questions. These triggers are great opportunities to make investments in IPAM automation that will support decreased customer-visible service disruptions, time-to-market delivery of new services, and inefficiencies that are preventing you from offering the services that your market really needs.

Here are the common triggers to watch out for:

  • A spike in service disruptions due to IP address misconfiguration caused by human error. Some common examples are:
    • Overlapping IP ranges have been allocated to different parts of the network
    • The same IP was given out to two devices
    • The misconfiguration of an IP range so that it’s not enabling the appropriate service to your customers  
  • The executive office, such as the CTO, has made automation of the network a strategic focus to support and differentiate services and/or maintain your current customer base. If IP address configuration decisions take minutes, hours, or even days because they depend on manual IP request tickets being created and closed, then you current IP management strategy needs to be reviewed.
  • Increased transaction rates puts a greater emphasis on the manual effort required for each change made on the network. What wasn’t a noticeable amount of time before can become a significant cost or a limiting factor to deliver the required services. The following events are often reasons for increased transaction:
    • Acquisition of new properties that use different hardware vendors for their routing elements or different technologies
    • An initiative for providing new IP-based services to your customer base, allowing you to increase the amount of value and revenue collected from the current base
    • IPv4 public scarcity is forcing you to renumber your address pools more frequently
    • Growth in IP-based services to your business customers

For all of the scenarios identified above, we see how IP address management automation is a core building block of automating your network. In addition, there are numerous expectations on your network that are pushing automation from a nice to have to a mandatory requirement.

In my next blog, I identify and discuss the questions to ask yourself when looking at automated IPAM solutions.

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