How do you assign and manage IP addresses on a Microsoft Active Directory (AD) network when the old quick and dirty process of tracking that information in an Excel spreadsheet is finally overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the problem?
According to Santa Clara, Calif.-based Infoblox, the answer is to install WinConnect, a standalone appliance that interfaces with AD and provides a centralized dashboard for network device IP address management, or IPAM.
Most networks, including AD-based ones, rely on the Internet standard domain naming system (DNS) and dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) to provide network addressing functions. However, there are shortcomings in the tools Microsoft provides for managing them.
“DHCP is used increasingly to hand out IP addresses,” Richard Kagan, vice president of marketing at Infoblox, told InternetNews.com. “But the management tools from Microsoft are pretty minimal,” he added.
The new WinConnect appliances, which are scheduled to be available in December, aim to simplify IP address management as well as to provide visibility for IPAM across the entire enterprise. That becomes more critical as more and more devices – from laptops to BlackBerries, IP phones, and smart phones – require network connectivity.
“There’s a cost in lack of visibility, including unnecessary help desk calls and time that IT staff has to spend managing IP addresses,” Kagan added. As the problem becomes more intractable, it also spills over into adjacent areas such as network reliability, disaster recovery, security compliance, and auditability.
“If customers need to have an end-to-end management scheme, [then] you need a system you can overlay on all of that,” Robert Whiteley, senior analyst at Forrester Research, told InternetNews.com. “They’re [Infoblox is] providing that bridge,” he added.
For one thing, taking an appliance-based approach enables IT to consolidate IPAM functions and push them down to the network team, rather than parcel management tasks out to different administrators around the enterprise, thus lowering labor costs and reducing confusion and errors.
“[Using appliances] is a trend that’s emerging,” Whiteley said. Neither is Infoblox the only company in the IPAM appliance arena. Other players include Blue Cat Networks and BT, he added.
All in all, Whiteley added, such appliances aim to help customers achieve what he terms “utility-grade networks.”
WinConnect is “agentless,” meaning that it doesn’t need to install a piece of WinConnect software on every server. Additionally, it provides automatic discovery of new devices on the network, eliminating manual, error-prone cataloguing of IP addresses. It also automatically maintains audit logs to document who performed what actions.
WinConnect will be available on the Infoblox-250, -550, -1050, and -1550 appliance platforms. An Infoblox-250 appliance with WinConnect will start at $2,995, according to the company.