Dealing with the proliferation of IP addresses generated by adoption trends in mobility, virtualization, cloud, and IPv6 is creating demand for better IP address management (IPAM), as well as possible future opportunities for managed service providers.
“Almost every new business tool or device is IP-enabled,” notes Shaun Antram, founder and principal of PCN Inc., a Philadelphia-based IT services company that specializes in delivering end-to-end IPAM solutions. “Today’s offices are increasingly IP-dependent.” Antram adds that when you take PCs, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, VoIP handsets, printers, and other devices into account, “every individual in an office can easily generate five to 10 IP addresses.” The complexity of managing all of these addresses is only going to grow as businesses move computing to the cloud and migrate to IPv6.
And while implementation of IPv6 has not been widespread among SMBs, some are now running it simultaneously with IPv4, straining the common method of managing addresses, according to Sanjay Castelino, vice president of product marketing at SolarWinds Inc., an IT management software provider based in Austin, Texas, whose products include IP Address Manager.
“Most of these businesses manage their IP addresses on a spreadsheet,” says Castelino. “IP address management used to only be a problem for businesses or institutions that had thousands of [addresses].” But given today’s IP-address growth spiral, even SMBs can find themselves facing what Castelino calls “the worst-case scenario—multiple machines that all think they have the same address.”
“Any business that operates a mission-critical network needs some level of IPAM,” says Antram. “The value of IPAM increases as the need for fault tolerance increases, as well as the number of network-attached devices, the number of IPs under management, and the number of mission-critical, IP-based systems.”
And that, notes Antram, opens up opportunities for MSPs to earn long-term recurring revenue by providing IPAM-related services. “We have had success selling services such as external DNS [domain name service], internal DNS and DHCP [dynamic host configuration protocol], and DNS security provisioning a la carte, as well as bundled to meet specific customer needs,” he says.
Launching an IPAM services program, Antram says, requires developing processes “that mitigate risk while maximizing service—allocating IP addresses, validating DNS and DHCP requests for completeness, error checking change requests, and planning safe and efficient changes to DNS and DHCP.”
Sales and technical certification programs from channel-oriented OEMs such as BlueCat Networks Inc., Toronto, and Infoblox Inc., Santa Clara, Calif., can help get MSPs up and running in the IPAM space, notes Antram.
Managed IPAM is an emerging field that MSPs should check out, agrees Castelino. “It addresses problems that network people didn’t have three years ago,” he says. “And now they are experiencing enough change to their IT infrastructure that they feel it may be worth it to outsource IPAM, because they don’t have time to deal with it.”