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IP address management tool simplifies net configuration management

The IPAM WinConnect IP address management appliance by Infoblox brings automated IP address management to enterprise Microsoft customers and new opportunities to channel partners.

A networking niche player announced a product this week designed to make IP address management simpler for end-user companies and the channel partners that configure and support customer networks.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Infoblox Inc.'s IP address management product, IPAM WinConnect, is an appliance designed to automate the process of managing internal IP addresses, which is often done manually using lists of IP addresses and their assignments stored in spreadsheets or databases.

"The more devices that you have on the network, the more of a nuisance it is," said Jon Oltsik, a senior analyst for Enterprise Strategy Group. "This is definitely an up-and-coming area."

Although manual IP address management is not an "enormous" problem yet, IPAM WinConnect offers a proactive solution, according to Tim Richardson, the security product marketing manager for Akibia Inc., an Infoblox partner in Westborough, Mass.

"It tends to be a hassle," Richardson said. "It's one of those things that nobody's looked at and come up with a better solution."

IPAM WinConnect is designed for Microsoft DNS and DHCP environments. DNS provides a link between a device's name and its IP address, and DHCP allocates IP addresses to devices.

"A lot of people have DNS and DHCP infrastructures through Windows and Active Directory," Oltsik said. "They're not going to change that, but they do need some help managing that."

Most businesses and organizations use spreadsheets or databases for IP address management -- to keep track of which IP addresses are assigned to which devices and which IP addresses remain available for future assignment, said Nicolas Draka, director of solutions marketing for Infoblox.

Every time a new device is added to the network, users have to get the next available IP address from the spreadsheet, check to make sure it works, assign it and then update the spreadsheet.

"This is driving everybody nuts, as you would imagine," Draka said.

IPAM WinConnect instead provides a real-time view, through a graphical user interface (GUI), of both the assigned and unassigned IP addresses. It runs as an agent-less appliance on the network, which allows for remote management.

Infoblox partners who sell IPAM WinConnect can use the IP address management tool to get a clearer picture of their customers' IT infrastructure. That could lead to additional sales and service opportunities, Draka said.

"It's a way for partners to approach their clients somewhat differently," he said.

For a partner like Akibia, WinConnect also helps by providing a current, accurate view that makes it easier to design and deploy network infrastructures, Richardson said. When a spreadsheet handles IP address management, anyone who can view the document can make changes, and that often leads to errors, he said.

"The integrity becomes questionable after a while," he said. "It's one of those things that can slow a project down."

IPAM WinConnect allows administrators to set different access levels for users, so some can look at the data without changing it. Customers that want to keep the information from their spreadsheets can upload it into the system as well.

Infoblox aims to sell IPAM WinConnect to customers with more than 1,000 users, because smaller companies can get by using a spreadsheet for IP address management, director of public relations Jennifer Jasper said. There are four models of the appliance, which manage between 250 and 1,550 IP addresses, and pricing starts at $2,995.

"The gap this is bridging is that a lot of IP address management tools are for service providers" who have to manage tens of thousands of IP addresses, Oltsik said. "This is more of an enterprise product."

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