Geek Speak

3 Posts authored by: Brien Posey

A few months ago, SolarWinds asked me to evaluate their IPAM product and to see how it compares to Microsoft’s IPAM solution that is built into Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2. In doing so, I constructed a multi-forest environment and worked through a feature by feature comparison of the two tools.


Obviously any third party product should provide functionality beyond that of the built in management tools. Otherwise what’s the point of using a third party management tool? That being the case, I’m not going to bother talking about all of the great functionality that exists within SolarWinds IPAM. I’m sure that the SolarWinds marketing staff could do a better job of that than I ever could.


What I do want to talk about is a simple question that someone asked me while I was attending Microsoft Ignite. That person said that they had heard that Microsoft IPAM really didn’t work very well and wondered if they were better off continuing to use spreadsheets for IP address management.


Here is my honest opinion on the matter:


Microsoft IPAM works, but it has a lot of limitations. For instance, a single Microsoft IPAM instance can’t manage multiple Active Directory forests and Microsoft IPAM does not work with non-Microsoft products. I think that using a third party product such as SolarWinds IPAM is clearly the best option, but if a third party management tool isn’t in the budget and you can live with Microsoft IPAM’s limitations then yes, it will work.


Having said that, there are two more things that you need to know if you are considering using Microsoft IPAM. First, even though it is relatively easy to set up Microsoft IPAM, it can be really tricky to bring your DNS and DHCP servers under management. The process is anything but intuitive and often requires some troubleshooting along the way. In fact, I recently wrote a rather lengthy article for Redmond Magazine on how to troubleshoot this process (this article will be published soon).


The second thing that you need to know is that there is a bit of a learning curve associated with using the Microsoft IPAM console. There are times when you may need to refresh the console without being told to do so. Similarly, there are some tasks that must be performed through the DNS or DHCP management consoles. It takes some time to learn all of the console’s various nuances and you may find that a third party tool makes the management process easier and more efficient.


Many of us use Microsoft Server in a variety of roles, including DHCP and DNS.  Microsoft DHCP and DNS services are provided at no extra cost and do a good job.  Besides, the Active Directory service depends on the use of DNS, so many organizations choose to use the Microsoft DNS services if for no other reason than to support the Active Directory.


Many of us (especially those still using spreadsheets to track IP’s) were excited to see a new IP Address Management utility bundled with Windows Server 2012.  However, Microsoft IPAM is somewhat comparable to many of Windows Server’s other built-in management tools.  That is to say that these tools are functional, but are not necessarily elegant and often suffer from a number of limitations. In fact, the Microsoft IPAM tool has many of the same limitations as the built-in DNS and DHCP management tools.


For example, Microsoft IPAM works great within a single AD forest, but it won’t work across forest boundaries. Organizations that have multiple Active Directory forests can deploy multiple IPAM instances, but these instances are not aware of one another and do not provide any sort of data synchronization.


The Microsoft IPAM console does a decent job of managing Microsoft DHCP servers, but is not designed to replace the DHCP MMC. Unfortunately, the Microsoft IPAM console provides very little DNS functionality, although this is expected to improve over time.


So why does any of this matter? Because your time is worth something.  If the tool is free, but it doesn’t save you time then the solution is not cost effective. This is why some organizations eventually graduate from Microsoft bundled tools to third-party solutions. 


What is your point of view?  Do you use Microsoft IPAM?  Why or why not?  Have you graduated?  If so, to what and why? If you would like to learn more about how Microsoft IPAM may cost you more, view this recorded webinar.


Microsoft Ignite is quickly approaching and although I am not going to be presenting a session this year, I am going to be doing an informal presentation on May 4th in the SolarWinds booth at the exhibit hall.


My presentation will focus on the challenges of server virtualization. As we all know, server virtualization provides numerous benefits, but it also introduces a whole new set of challenges. As such, I plan to spend a bit of time talking about some of the virtualization related challenges that keep administrators up at night.


I don’t want to give away too much information about my presentation before Ignite even starts, but I will tell you that some of the challenges that I plan to talk about are related to IP address management. Microsoft has tried to make things better for its customers by introducing a feature in Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 called IP Address Management (IPAM).


The Windows Server IPAM feature has its good points and it has its bad points. In some situations, Microsoft IPAM works flawlessly. In other situations, it simply is not practical to use Microsoft IPAM. Unfortunately, some administrators probably do not find out about the IPAM feature’s limitations until they have taken the time to install and configure IPAM. That being the case, I plan to spend some time talking about what you can realistically expect from Microsoft IPAM.


So if you are interested in learning more about IP address management, or if you just want to meet me in person then please feel free to stop by the SolarWinds booth (# 543) for my presentation on May 4th at 2pm.  I am expecting a big crowd, so you may want to arrive early.



Click here to let us know you’re going to be at MS Ignite and see a full schedule of our activities.




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