Published on 20 Jan 2014
What is IPAM?
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 DNS records and configuring 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:
- Free/assigned IP address space
- Size and users of subnets currently in use
- Status for each IP address
- Hostname associated with each IP address
- Hardware associated with each IP address
Why is IPAM necessary?
There are three main reasons why IPAM is necessary for communication service providers:
- Resource Management
- Growth Strategy
- Transition to IPv6
1. Resource Management
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.
2. Growth Strategy
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 business.
3. IPv6 and dual-stack
IPAM has become even more important since the introduction of the new Internet Protocol, IPv6. More details are available below.
How does IPv6 Affect IPAM?
There are three main ways that IPv6 has increased the need for service providers to adopt an IPAM solution:
Address Format and Size
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.
What Costs are Associated with IPAM?
While purchasing an IPAM solution may require capital expenditure, there are many more costs associated with poor and/ineffective IP address management. See “what are the risks of poor IP management?” below for details.
What are the Risks of Poor IP Management?
The risks associated with inefficiently managed IP networks include network downtime, lost revenues, dissatisfied customers, and network security and access problems. For example:
- Broadband service cancellations by existing customers (churn) or new customers, or excessive technical support time, caused by the inability to provision the proper IP addresses for Internet access and communications
- Delays in introducing new broadband services after being denied address space by an Regional Internet Registry (RIR) due to inadequate utilization reports and growth plans and lack of cost-effective means to re-allocate existing IP addresses
- Access problems for banking or e-commerce customers because of unavailability or duplication of IP addresses
- Inability to diagnose a network outage or provide access privileges resulting from the lack of IPAM diagnostics tools
- Delays in consolidating business units (in mergers, acquisitions, or reorganizations) due to overlapping IP space
- Disruptions on manufacturing assembly lines caused by misconfigured IP addresses that interrupt material flows
What Should I Look for in an IP Address Management Solution?
Everyone will have a different set of priorities but a few key aspects to look out for are:
- Reporting. Especially report generation tailored to fit RIRs
- IPv6 support. No matter where you are in the transition, future-proofing is key.
- Performance. Capability to handle large IP pools or manage busy operations.
- DHCP and DNS integration. Compatibility with a system already in place.
- Historical data. Critical when operating in regions with lawful intercept requirements.
Can I Still Acquire New IPv4 Addresses?
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.
Can I Use a Spreadsheet to Manage a Small Pool of IP Addresses?
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.
Where Can I Find Out More About IPv6 or IPAM?
Many organizations offer excellent advice about IPv6 and the need for effective address management.
Regional Internet Registries (RIR)
- Canadian Telco Prepares for Expansion with IPAM Solution