SolarWinds IPAM Tames the Chaos of Complex IP Networks

REVIEW: IP Address Manager from SolarWinds brings centralized monitoring and management to complex IP infrastructures and provides administrators with advanced troubleshooting tools.

Businesses of all sizes have one undeniable thing in common: the need for their IP networks to function properly. However, as those networks grow in complexity, so does the need for proactive management and monitoring.

To date, many IT administrators manage their IP infrastructures manually, using spreadsheets and user-dependent scans to identify and track IP addresses. While that method may work for small, relatively static networks, the truth of the matter is that manual management is time-consuming, prone to failure and a waste of resources that could be used better elsewhere.

SolarWinds is offering a solution to that IP management problem in the form of IP Address Manager (IPAM), a comprehensive centralized IP management tool set that promises to automate many of the tasks associated with maintaining and extending an IP-based infrastructure.

With a starting price of $1,995, IPAM bundles in capabilities such as centralized IP address management, monitoring, alerting and reporting. Also included are Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) and Domain Name Service (DNS) management and monitoring, automated subnet scanning, event recording, and historical IP traffic recording.

A Closer Look at IPAM

I installed IPAM onto a Windows Server 2008 R2 system for testing. IPAM works as a server application, using Microsoft's SQL Server for its database and Internet Information Services (IIS) for browser connectivity. Full installation requirements are available on the company's Website and are included in the comprehensive quick start documentation.

Installation was straightforward and follows normal conventions—much like any other product in SolarWinds' arsenal. IPAM can also be integrated into the company's high-end Orion-branded, comprehensive network management products to create a unified management platform.

After installation, IPAM can be accessed using a Web browser, which launches a dashboard and management console. Once initial configuration was completed, using IPAM became a process of scanning the network, importing IP device configurations, setting up users and performing other related tasks.

These tasks were simplified by the included wizards, the integrated help and the easy-to-use GUI.

IPAM offers concise address management capabilities, including a dashboard that highlights critical information, such as the top 10 DHCP scopes, the top 10 subnets in use and the last 25 events.

IPAM delivers real power to network managers, giving them the ability to create policies, as well as define roles-based administration. Policies can be created for change management, compliance, network monitoring, alerting and other real-time situations. Policies prove especially powerful for those looking to strengthen compliance initiatives, where unauthorized changes are attempted or setup changes violate a particular policy.

Network managers also have full control over what assigned users can and cannot do, thanks to the roles-based administration module. For example, low-level managers can be assigned view-only rights, while auditors may only be granted reporting and forensics capabilities. Roles can be defined by device as well, creating management groups where local administrators can only make changes to their local devices at a specific branch.

Multisite networks often deal with complex DNS and DHCP schemes. Here IPAM gives full visibility into the operations of DHCP and DNS, speeding troubleshooting chores and making it easier to optimize configurations. The included device tracker utility provides critical information about individual devices and the history of those devices. What's more, alerts can be created for given devices, which inform administrators of failures, changes and traffic problems, bringing proactive management capabilities to a network manager.

IPAM includes extensive ad-hoc reporting capabilities, allowing network managers to create "what-if" scenarios and case-based historical reports. Reports can be filtered by IP address, host names, connections, ports and so on. A search utility helps to narrow down device selections to create filtered reports.

A "top 10" report offers network managers a quick view into a variety of "top 10" items, including packet loss, CPU loads, response times, SSIDs and so on, giving managers the ability to proactively plan their day.

Those aren't the only reports and management screens, but it would take a book to cover all of the product's capabilities. Luckily, that book does exist—it is called the manual, which is actually a PDF containing hundreds of pages. For those not wanting to delve through a thick manual, a quick start guide as well as a very active community should make short work of any questions.

For organizations with complex networks that are struggling with traffic management, device management and insights into IP management, SolarWinds' IPAM is an excellent solution to those issues. Enterprises that start with IPAM can scale up to SolarWinds' other management products to deliver integrated network management with end-to-end monitoring.