IP address management, as all of us networking professionals know, is an integral part of the enterprise network management system. With the explosion of IP addresses—thanks, but no thanks to the BYOD trend—and the encroaching need to migrate to IPv6, network admins are looking for an effective solution to monitor, track and manage IP addresses with the ability to:


  • Control the entire IP infrastructure from a centralized web console
  • Scan DHCP servers for IP address changes
  • Prevent subnets and DHCP scopes from filling up with preventative alert notifications
  • Create, schedule, and share reports showing IP address space percent utilization
  • Create IPv6 subnets and plan for IPv6 migrations


As I’m sure you’re already aware, trying to implement all of this using spreadsheets is impossible, but there are IPAM and DDI solutions available in the market that can help. In choosing the right solution for your specific needs, a decision will need to be made as to whether you should go with a software-based IPAM solution or a hardware-based appliance. Let’s dive into a comparison and find out which would suit your needs better.


IPAM SW vs. HW.png


#1 Price

As much as we all wish price didn’t have to be a factor in our decisions, the hard truth is that it always will be, especially for today’s IT departments who want to be seen as adding business value and not just as a cost center. Hardware-based IPAM appliances are significantly more expensive than their software counterparts. Closing a deal is a lengthy process likely requiring weeks for approvals, signoffs, product demonstrations and finally, installations. On the other hand, software-based IPAM solutions are far less expensive and easier to implement, making them ideally suited to businesses of all types and sizes. Why purchase a cost-prohibitive, proprietary hardware appliance when you can get a far more flexible and agile solution that will add scale to your existing infrastructure at a fraction of the cost?


#2 Installation & Setup

Hardware IPAM solutions are difficult to setup and install – in other words, time-consuming and likely headache-fraught!

    • First, you must wait on the device to be consigned to your location.
    • Upon delivery, it must be racked, stacked, and cabled properly.
    • Next, you need to ensure its communicating with the rest of your network (if it’s not, go back to previous step).
    • Finally, you’ll need to configure the management UI from a separate computer
    • For each additional device (which will likely be needed to scale), rinse and repeat aforementioned steps

With IPAM software, you can download and install the product immediately and be up and running in as little as an hour!


#3 Maintenance & Overhead

Anything hardware-oriented poses significant maintenance overhead. You need to ensure the IPAM appliance is regularly paid attention to for maintenance and overhaul. You will need to factor in:

    1. Manual effort required for device inspection, maintenance and repair
    2. Time consumption in tending to hardware servicing needs
    3. Productivity and operational time loss during the hours of maintenance
    4. Cost involved in replacing any damaged or faulty hardware parts


The very nature of hardware makes it vulnerable to failure – one damaged part, no matter how small, could shut down the entire device. With a software-based solution, you don’t have to worry about a proprietary physical device being impacted or the associated time, effort and financial overhead required for maintenance and repair. Software can be installed on any existing server and can be easily scaled.


#4 Upgrade

IPAM software can be easily upgraded anytime.  It’s as simple as downloading and installing the new version. Whereas, hardware upgrades are often a painful task involving firmware and driver updates, which if done incorrectly, could render the device inoperable. In some instances, an upgrade isn’t even an option. Instead, the entire appliance may need to be swapped out for the latest and greatest hardware, costing you even more money!


#5 Technical Support

Some 3rd party IP address management software providers offer full first year maintenance and free on-call technical support 24x7. And, subsequent annual renewals are just a fraction of the cost. Plus, there’s no need for technical personnel to visit the site for support and repairs. Hardware, on the other hand, does require first-hand physical check-ups and repairs if there are technical problems. You lose time logging the issue with the vendor, waiting for the vendor technician to visit the site, then waiting some more for the issue to be diagnosed and resolved. And, during this whole time, the appliance is down and IPAM capabilities are lost.


#6 Scalability

Software-based IPAM solutions scale much easier with additional pollers that can be installed onto any web server, unlike hardware-based solutions that often require additional (and costly) appliances to scale up.


#7 Integration with other Network Management Systems

Many software-based IPAM solutions can easily integrate with other network monitoring systems to help achieve comprehensive network management.


Hardware appliances are not as flexible or easily integrated with existing network monitoring solutions, resulting in the need to have different monitoring consoles and added administration.

SolarWinds IP Address Manager (IPAM) is a scalable, flexible and nimble IPAM software solution that offers simple yet powerful IP address management, DHCP and DNS management from a centralized web console. IPAM leverages an intuitive point-and-click web interface that allows you to easily manage, monitor, alert, and report on your entire IP infrastructure, identify and resolve IP conflicts, as well as efficiently plan for your future IP address needs, including IPv6 migrations.