7 October 2021 | 6 min read

What Is IPAM? Beginner Guide to IP Address Management

What are the benefits and features of IP address management? Why do we use IPAM in network management? Read this article to learn all about this.

IP address management IPAM

IPAM stands for IP address management. It is the process that helps network administrators plan and manage IP addresses throughout their entire networks. 

Because each device on a network requires an IP address, it’s important to carefully plan the usage of IPs to ensure the most efficient application of a finite digital resource. As a result, proper IP management is a core concern for a network of any size. 

The primary purpose of IP address management is to ensure that a system’s IP addressing space is managed efficiently and kept up to date. This includes capacity planning, writing DNS records (DNS zones) and configuring DNS and DHCP servers. As well as making sure that the repository of assignable IP addresses is accurate.

Beyond simply assigning IP addresses, IPAM management may involve reservation controlling in DHCP, data aggregation and reporting. 

Most network admins will use IP address management software to semi or fully automate IPAM processes, making it easier to manage IP addresses over a large network. 

What is an IP address management tool? 

An IP address management tool is any network management software that allows you to track your inventory of available addresses. IPAM tools can also help get IP resources assigned automatically, configure DNS and DHCP settings, access data and report about the IP address space and access additional functionality related to IP space management. 

A human sitting in front of four monitors, managing IPAM.
IP address management

If you are a system administrator, your choice of IPAM software will depend on your needs, system configuration and the number of IP addresses on your system. Here are a few of the most popular solutions. 

BlueCat IP Address Manager

With the ability to integrate IP address, DNS and DHCP data in one place, BlueCat is one of the most advanced and accessible IPAM solutions on the market. 

Support for VMWare and Microsoft Hyper-V and extensive reporting functionality are the key selling points of the tool. Moreover, BlueCat offers global visibility, management, planning and automation around network IP addresses. 

SolarWinds IP Address Manager

In addition to all the basic IP management functionality you need, SolarWinds IP address manager software offers real-time DHCP and DNS tracking and management services. 

This solution comes loaded with automatic IP address tracking and an advanced reporting system that allows you to set up custom alerts. 

Windows Server 2016 IPAM System

Microsoft has had an integrated IPAM solution since 2012, with the latest updated version being the 2016 iteration. 

This solution carries all the same planning, managing and tracking functionality that you’d expect. However, it’s specifically tailored to the IP address space infrastructure of large-scale enterprise networks. 

The directory management and IP purging capabilities of the Windows Server 2016 IPAM can serve a greater number of IP addresses.

The NOC Project

The NOC Project is a free, open-source solution. It works as an operating support system for large networks with a great number of connected devices. Despite being free to use, it still has much of the same functionality as the paid alternatives. 

Among the highlights of this tool are the multi-VRF IP address space management, DNS integration and advanced reporting tools.

IP Address Management solution by IPXO.
IPXO IPAM

IPXO IPAM

This fully automated IP address lease and monetization marketplace enables IP holders to monetize their resources and unlock a new revenue stream. It also facilitates companies and organizations that require IP resources to rent IP addresses.

IPXO’s IP address marketplace has a fully integrated IPAM. We offer a full automation stack. IPXO clients can assign IPs to any infrastructure. Soon, they will also be able to manage IPs from all Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) and employ the automated RPKI functionality.

The importance of IPAM

Any device connected to a network needs to have its own unique IP address. This is what allows routers to direct internet traffic to the correct device. Regardless of the physical location or the device type, each device needs an IP resource assigned to it. 

Small and home networks usually only have a few connected devices. Larger networks that belong to enterprises and institutions, however, can have thousands of connected devices. 

Effective IPAM is crucial in ensuring that all devices are assigned suitable IP addresses. That records of available IPs are correct. And that it is easy to manage, plan and track IP addresses efficiently.

This is increasingly true, given the steady rise of emerging technologies (e.g., cloud computing) and the internet of things

The benefits of IPAM

So, now that we understand what IPAM is and how you might apply it to your system, what is IPAM useful for? 

There are a few reasons an IPAM solution aids in the running of core network services:

  • Clear administrative overview 
  • Easy administration
  • Improved reliability and network security 
Clear overview, easy administration and improved reliability introduced as IPAM key benefits.
Key benefits of IPAM

Clear overview for network administrators

It is easy to keep a single, central repository of all your IP addresses and automate the management of the IP address space of your network by establishing a clear overview of your network.

As a network administrator, you have better visibility over assigned and unassigned IP addresses. You can also automate efficient IP assignments and have reporting capabilities for IP-connected devices on your network. 

Easy and efficient management of IP addresses

Integrating an effective IPAM solution helps simplify the tasks related to IP addressing and the management of the IP address space. This improves the operational efficiency of the entire network. 

Less downtime and improved network security 

IP conflicts and overlapping subnets can cause problems for both system administrators and end-users. IPAM helps avoid such misconfigurations. Systems with properly integrated IPAM solutions experience less downtime and faster troubleshooting. 

Easier access to data on IP addressing and available IP resources also enable you to identify malicious behavior on your network more readily. This way, IPAM solutions help improve your IP network security. 

There is an IP address conflict warning.
IP conflict

IPv4 and IPv6 IPAM support

Right now, the most commonly used type of IP is IPv4. Most networks have been using it since the adoption of the internet. However, there are two versions of the Internet Protocol in use across the internet, with the second being IPv6. 

The key difference is that IPv4 uses a 32-bit address, allowing for a total of around 4.29 billion IPs. While not all of these have been assigned, with the growth of smart technology and the internet of things, we need more IP addresses. 

IPv6 uses 128-bit addresses, allowing 1028 times more IP addresses to exist across the internet. For this reason, IPv6 adoption is slowly picking up speed. 

Most modern IPAM solutions handle both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. Moreover, they can help networks with the switch from IPv4 to IPv6 without unnecessary confusion or extra work. 

If you plan to switch to IPv6, choose an IPAM solution that can manage both protocols.

Can we manage without IPAM? 

Yes, in theory, it is possible to manage a network without a proper IPAM solution. However, that is not advisable for a few reasons:

  • Security: An in-depth understanding of which IPs were assigned to which devices and when offers a higher degree of security
  • Reporting: IPAM solutions offer automated reporting and altering, which are valuable for the smooth running of your network
  • Performance: Without IPAM, keeping track of large numbers of IP addresses, managing operations and troubleshooting network issues is much more cumbersome
  • Future-proofing: IPAM helps your network manage the rise of and switch to IPv6, a significant task to handle manually
  • IP address conflicts: If you’re assigning IP addresses manually, without the help of IPAM tools, you’re more likely to assign the same address multiple times mistakenly 

Conclusion

Will you choose to use an IPAM solution? Which solution will you choose? That depends on the size of your network, the number of connected devices and how much work you’re willing to put into managing IP addresses manually. 

It is possible to carry out IP management without a proper IPAM tool. However, by now, you understand the utility of such tools and the extent to which they can make administrating your whole network easier. 

If you want to avoid errors, increase security and make sure your network is ready to adopt IPv6, employing trusted IPAM services might be an advantageous step.