Another challenger to the IP address management king

IPControl is easy to use and less expensive than Lucent's VitalQIP, but it falls short in feature depth and scalability when compared with the champ.

In our quest to find the world's best IP address management tool, IPControl 2.0 from International Network Services slipped under our radar. So we recently subjected IPControl to the same tests and criteria we used in our May 9 story.


How we did it

Previous: Lucent edges MetaInfo in IP address management test

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The perfect IP address management tool should flexibly and efficiently assign IP addresses to all IP devices, centrally manage the address and URL information across an enterprise, quickly and effortlessly equate host names with IP addresses, scale well, be intuitive to use and be pervasively platform-neutral. The tool also must have useful reports, integrate with custom-written applications, cooperate with Active Directory, be LDAP-aware Lightweight Delivery Access Protocol-aware and deal robustly with badly formed or non-compliant DHCP requests. The best tool is also highly fault-tolerant and enforces security to help keep hackers at bay.

We found IPControl to be less expensive than Lucent Technologies' VitalQIP and MetaInfo's Meta IP, yet just as easy to use. However, VitalQIP (the May 9 Clear Choice Award winner) is faster, offers more features and is more scalable.

Organizing your addresses

IPControl did a good job of discovering and cataloging our network's devices via its queries of router subnets, DHCP address pools and individual IP addresses. After initially discovering our IP-based network nodes, IPControl separately managed actual vs. planned addressing schemes to provide us with a forward-looking view of our future network as it expanded. We also liked IPControl's BIND versions 8 and 9 compliance, as well as integration with Active Directory. IPControl can direct the operations of Windows Server's DHCP services just as well as it can its own DHCP server software.

The IPControl platform includes a central InControl Executive, at least one but possibly several InControl Agents, a central database and an Administrative Interface. The Executive application directs the activities of the agents, stores IP addressing information in the database and accepts interactive configuration data from the Administrative Interface. The default database is MySQL (included), but on Solaris you can substitute your own copy of Oracle's relational database. INS supplies ISC DHCP software that runs on Red Hat Linux and Solaris, and BIND software that runs on Windows, Red Hat Linux and Solaris. IPControl runs on Solaris, Windows (2000, 2003 and XP) and Red Hat Linux. If you prefer a network appliance, INS sells IPControl pre-loaded in a rack-mountable device.

IP address requests

Product

Elapsed

seconds

Leases/

second*
VitalQIP441,136
Meta IP58862
IPControl58862
DNSBoxes65769
* 50,000 requests divided by elapsed seconds value
DNS resolution performance

Product

Elapsed

seconds

Leases/

second*
VitalQIP281,786
Meta IP351,428
IPControl361,389
DNSBoxes421,190
* 50,000 requests divided by elapsed seconds value

As in our earlier test, we measured performance by running custom client software that rapidly requests 50,000 dynamic IP addresses and noting the elapsed time that each tool took to respond. We ran the program six times, one test on each network segment in our lab. We also benchmarked DNS activity. Our test software issued a flood of 50,000 name-to-IP address resolution requests, and obtained responses from a DNS server (chart 2).

For reliability and robust address management, the DHCP server within the IPControl architecture handles failover according to the IETF's DHCP Failover Protocol Internet Draft for primary/secondary servers (i.e., active and hot standby servers). VitalQIP and Meta IP go a step further by supporting multiple running DHCP servers, as well as primary/secondary DHCP servers. Both IPControl and VitalQIP can optionally ping a DHCP address-requesting client at lease time to make sure a DHCP request isn't spurious.

IPControl, VitalQIP and Meta IP offer logon authentication via callout script or program that you write. However, VitalQIP and Meta IP have explicit support for such operations as relating an IP address to a MAC address (user-to-address mapping), which in IPControl requires that an administrator write a callout program. VitalQIP and Meta IP have explicit support for LDAP. With IPControl, you must use the callout service feature to integrate it with an LDAP repository. VitalQIP also explicitly supports Dynamic DNS (DDNS) multi-master updates, while IPControl has a listener service that can perform incremental updates as well as updates of multiple masters. We also found that IPControl cannot send SNMP alerts to a network management system (such as HP OpenView) when it detects an address from a particular MAC address or user logon, but VitalQIP can.

Like IPControl, VitalQIP is available on a network appliance and runs on Solaris, Windows (2000, 2003 and XP) and Red Hat Linux. VitalQIP additionally runs on AIX and HP-UX. Meta IP runs on Solaris, Red Hat Linux, Debian, SuSE and Windows (2000, 2003 and XP). In contrast to IPControl, VitalQIP's database options include both the Oracle and Sybase Adaptive Server RDBMSes, relational DBMSes and Lucent bundles Sybase Adaptive Server with VitalQIP. Because VitalQIP is faster and runs on more platforms, we feel that it is more scalable than IPControl.

IPControl's support for IPv6 is a big plus, while VitalQIP won't work with IPv6 addresses until the end of 2005. On the other hand, VitalQIP has ENUM support for relating phone numbers to URLs or IP addresses (RFC 2916), whereas IPControl does not.

Ease of use

IPControl 2.0OVERALL RATING
3.8
Company: International Network Services Cost: From 10 cents to $2.50 per node Pros: Intuitive, easy-to-navigate user interface; low cost Cons: Not as feature-rich or as fast as VitalQIP.
The breakdown   

Performance 20%

4
IP address management 20%4
Ease of use 20%4
Scalability 10%3
Security 10%4
Installation 10%3
Documentation 10%4
TOTAL SCORE  3.8
Scoring Key: 5: Exceptional; 4: Very good; 3: Average; 2: Below average; 1: Consistently subpar

IPControl uses a container metaphor to help an administrator organize IP addresses into groups. These containers can represent geographical locations or other organizational elements significant to a customer. A collapsible tree makes quick work of navigating IP address blocks if you have complex sets of containers.

We liked that IPControl let us effectively delegate administrative tasks by subnet. It supports multiple concurrent administrators, just as VitalQIP does.

IPControl has a Web browser-based interface and command-line interface, while VitalQIP offers an easy-to-navigate native GUI client for Windows and Unix in addition to its browser-based and command-line interfaces. However, IPControl graphically displays network topology, a feature that VitalQIP lacks. For data import and export options, IPControl had fewer options, and less extensive templates, than VitalQIP.

IPControl offers extensive, easy-to-use API if you want to write your own programs (for example, issuing trouble tickets when exceptional situations occur). The software was easy to install and came with clear, comprehensive documentation.

IPControl didn't dethrone VitalQIP in our tests, but it certainly proved a worthy challenger.

Nance runs Network Testing Labs and is the author of Introduction to Networking, 4th Edition and Client/Server LAN Programming. He can be reached at barryn@erols.com.

Nance is also a member of the Network World Lab Alliance, a cooperative of the premier reviewers in the network industry, each bringing to bear years of practical experience on every review. For more Lab Alliance information, including what it takes to become a member, go to www.nwfusion.com/alliance.

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Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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