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This article provides a summary of everything you need to know about IP address management.
Updated on March 21, 2022
Internet Protocol address management (IPAM) refers to a method of tracking and adjusting the information associated with a network’s Internet Protocol (IP) address space. IPAM simplifies and automates the administration of many tasks involved in IP space management, including writing and configuring DNS and DHCP settings.
Key capabilities include automating workflow processes, highlighting shortages and potential issues with IP address space inventory, and enabling tiered administration.
An IPAM solution lets administrators keep up-to-date records of IP assignments and available addresses. Records might include:
There are three main reasons why IPAM software is necessary for communication service providers:
A system for organizing IP address space is vital because there are only a finite number of IP resources available — and these cost money. Without an IPAM system to track and manage IP addresses, problems like IP conflicts can cause serious problems for users.
For example, consider that every network device connected to the Internet or corporate intranet requires at least one IP address. These devices also need access to a DNS server to resolve domain names. If there is more than one device with the same IP address, network routers will not know where to pass data packets, which can disrupt operations. An IPAM system can help by tracking IP and automating tasks to keep workflow running.
You could potentially run out of IP addresses if you are unable to keep track of your address space accurately or easily. This would prevent you from easily adding new subscribers and limit your ability to grow your network services and business.
IPAM has become even more important since the introduction of the new Internet Protocol, IPv6. More details are available below.
There are three main ways that IPv6 has increased the need for service providers to adopt an IPAM solution:
IPv6 offers four times more address space than IPv4, which allows for just over 4 billion addresses. An IPv6 uses a 128-bit address, whereas IPv4 follows a 32-bit address scheme. The added complexity of IPv6 means that while an administrator may have once been able to remember an IPv4 address, some kind of IPAM tool is needed to keep track of IPv6 resources.
These two protocols will coexist for some time and providers need a solution that can organize address space when implementing these protocols side-by-side (in “dual-stack mode”). An IPAM solution allows you to catalog your IPv4 network resources, as well as IPv6 address space.
While previously it may have been possible to manage IPv4 address space using spreadsheets or manual systems, IPv6 is so large and complex that this is unworkable. You can allocate and track much larger blocks of addresses in IPv6 than you ever could in IPv4. Transitioning to IPv6, therefore, gives you the opportunity to redesign your entire networking infrastructure. Use IPAM to monitor your IPv6 deployment and re-adjust your strategy as required.
While purchasing an IPAM solution may require capital expenditure, there are many more costs associated with poor and/ineffective IP address management.
The risks associated with inefficiently managed IP networks include network downtime, lost revenues, dissatisfied customers, and network security and access problems. For example:
Everyone will have a different set of priorities but a few key aspects to look out for are:
The pool of available IPv4 resources is nearly completely exhausted and RIRs can no longer satisfy all requests for additional IPv4 addresses. RIRs have already implemented stricter criteria, which means that you will need to provide strong justification for any IPv4 requests and still should expect to receive smaller allocations than in the past.
Another method of acquiring additional IP addresses is to purchase them from another entity that is not utilizing these resources. Some RIRs, like ARIN, provide services that facilitate the transfer of IPv4 resources. Bear in mind that this can be expensive. Visit the website for your RIR for further information:
Consider maximizing your existing address pool first with an IPAM solution. It will reduce the need for additional addresses, and help with your request to the RIR.
It is not recommended to use a spreadsheet to perform address management duties, no matter the size of the address pool. This method is not only time-consuming to maintain but increasingly prone to human error, which can result in erroneous configurations in your network. IPv6 features like Stateless Address auto configuration also introduces additional complexities that can be counter-productive to handle in a spreadsheet.
Many organizations offer excellent advice about IPv6 and the need for effective address management.