Managing IP addresses with free tools

* Budget decision makers might not think IP addresses are a priority, but free tools can get the job done now

Few people would argue the importance of IP addresses to network operations, but many don't make managing them a priority in their environment, especially in tough economic times.

Recent research from BT showed that more network managers are moving away from spreadsheets and investing in automation and other tools to manage IP addresses. Still many couldn't get an IP address management (IPAM) project pushed through the budget process for various reasons. Some reasons pointed to other projects taking a higher priority and others simply thought their network was too small to justify the investment

But many working in network operations today believe managing IP addresses is too critical a project to fall victim to budget crunches.

"Many IT folks and shops don’t get that proper IP address management is more than just housekeeping. Although more appropriately thought of as IP address design, how you determine to lay out your address space becomes a major factor in being able to grow and adapt your organization to the changing needs of IT," says Chad Buzzard, director of network operations at Lending Tree in Charlotte, N.C.

Buzzard experienced a similar situation last year, with no budget to upgrade his IPAM practices he found another option.

"As the person directly responsible for the IP address allocation within our enterprise I can understand the priority conflict in moving to an automated solution, but the cost of a product should not be a factor for anyone if they take their time to look at the options out there," says Chad Buzzard, director of network operations at Lending Tree in Charlotte, N.C. "Last year we moved from spreadsheets to the open source tool called IPplan."

According to sourceforge.net, IPplan is free, Web-based IPAM software that can help simplify the administration of network IP address space. Available under the GNU General Public License, IPplan includes DNS administration, configuration file management, customizable circuit management and hardware information storage. The application is said to be able to handle a single network or multiple networks and overlapping address space.

For Buzzard, the open source application enables him to make IPAM a priority without paying for it. Using in-house labor and free tools helps keep the IP address space managed according to best practices, which he says will ultimately pay off for his organization.

"We have every IP address in our network integrated into this tool and we perform weekly network scans to find rogue IP addresses that were not documented, as well as to find addresses no longer in use to keep everything up to date," he says. "There was a fair amount of manpower time in that project, but a lot of that comes from our desire to audit every IP address instead of just mapping the spreadsheet in and calling it good."

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