Over the past few years, I’ve seen telco and cable service providers place a greater emphasis on managed IP services for business (enterprise) customers. These services may include Internet services, virtual private networks (VPN), managed routers, and even internal network management to link the various offices of a business together.
More organizations are moving towards cloud and private-cloud hosted services because IT departments are under pressure to decrease operational costs. The cost effectiveness of cloud technology has increased the value proposition of managed IP services, which may be delivered via private cloud. As service providers attempt to grow this area of their business, they are discovering that approaches used in the past do not scale to meet the short turnaround times expected by business customers. An inadequate IP address management (IPAM) solution is a common source of these bottlenecks.
Enterprises want to be able to deploy new IP-based services quickly, possibly over the web. Depending on the services offered, these customers require public, private, and potentially IPv6 address space. Requests for IP addresses should follow policies that encourage proper utilization of limited IPv4 public address and minimize any quality of service issues. However, inadequate IP management — such as relying on spreadsheets or ticketing systems to find the next available IP address — can add hours or even days to the provisioning process that should only take seconds.
An IPAM solution that is aware of business customers and their various pools of addresses is essential for offering enterprise customers traditional managed IP services and dynamic cloud-based services.
What Should You Look For?
Your IPAM system should be able to abstract all of the necessary IP address requirements from your operations support systems (OSS). It should also provide lifecycle management throughout the provisioning and decommissioning phases of IP-based services. If you’re managing IP services for business customers, or plan to in the future, look for the following IPAM capabilities:
- Customer-centric view of all IPv4 and IPv6 subnets for a specific customer. This allows support staff to understand the customer’s services and assist them when necessary
- Easily and safely request new IP address ranges from the appropriate pool to assign to the customer
- Integrate with OSS to attach service contracts to IP ranges. This safely reclaims IP space when a service is decommissioned and returns the IP blocks to a free pool to be reused in the future
- Automatically apply a grace period that leaves recently reclaimed IP addresses in a reserved state for a specified number of days. This ensures that the IP addresses are not reused prematurely and prevents customer issues like IP conflicts
- Represent different customer sites in a hierarchy so that IP assignments can be safely assigned to different geographical sites and services for that business customer
- Provide the option to manage public DNS information to offer a one-stop shop for all your customer’s networking needs
- Support the creation of a portal that allows business customers to log in and view their IP assignments themselves
We’re always interested in finding out what else we can do to help you manage your business customers. For example, recent suggestions have included the ability to manage duplicate private IP addresses and collect justification information for public IP addresses. We’re working on new features all the time and would love to hear to any ideas that you have — contact your account manager or email firstname.lastname@example.org.