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In the second of this two-part series, we talk about survey results obtained from thwack members on how they’re managing IP addresses in the age of BYOD and IoT. In the previous discussion, we profiled our responders and learned that the following three top-level capabilities are most important to IP Address Management:

  1. Monitor IP address usage and IP resource utilization
  2. Accurately provision IP addresses and automate routine configuration tasks
  3. Manage and maintain IP address documentation


We also learned that on average a network administrator spends about one day each week creating and maintaining IP address documentation, provisioning DHCP and DNS servers, and monitoring and troubleshooting IP resources.


Here, we’re going to take a closer look at what detailed capabilities network admins think are most important to IP address management. Because we wanted to talk about a large number of features, we decided to organize these into the following five categories:

  1. Troubleshooting and Incident Response
  2. Monitoring and Alerting
  3. Administration and Reporting
  4. IP Provisioning
  5. Task Automation


Troubleshooting and Incident Response


Under the category of Troubleshooting and Incident Response, the most desirable feature was the ability to identify end-point devices connected to an IP address. On the other hand, the least important feature was the ability to kill a network connection to a device.


Monitoring and Alerting


Under the category of Monitoring and Alerting, the highest ranking feature was the ability to monitor addresses for accurate status (e.g., used/unused/transitory) for re-assignment or reclamation. In addition, the lowest ranking feature as the ability to identify BYOD/Mobile end-point devices.


Administration and Reporting


Under the category of Administration and Reporting, the most popular capability was the ability to view a change history (e.g., who changed what, when). The least popular capability as the ability to create specialized compliance reports.


IP Provisioning


Under the category of IP Provisioning, the most important capability identified was being able to find available IP addresses to use in subnets, virtual servers, and other applications.  The least important capability was being able to configure and use DNSSEC options.


Task Automation


Under the category of Task Automation, the most important capability was the ability to perform bulk backup and restore of configuration settings on DHCP and DNS servers while the least important capability was a “self-service” portal.


What We Learned about How IT Professionals Manage IP Addresses


Looking across all five categories, we identified five features which ranked at the very top for being most important. These are:

  1. Easily find IP addresses available to use
  2. Monitor and detect IP address conflicts
  3. Identify properties associated with end-point devices (like location, MAC address, OS, user, etc.)
  4. Easily search to find address and details
  5. Easily reclaim addresses no longer in use.


We also observed a high degree of correlation between these detailed capabilities and the following top-level capabilities:

  1. Monitor IP address usage and IP resource utilization
  2. Accurately provision IP addresses and automate routine configuration tasks
  3. Manage and maintain IP address documentation


In our final discussion we’ll review what survey respondents said about the overall importance of IP Management in the larger context of network administration and the benefits IP Management brings to their organization. In the meantime, add to the discussion.  What silver-bullets would you like to have (or do you use) to manage IP addresses and supporting infrastructure?


The Importance of IP Address Management


Overall, our survey revealed that 88 percent of respondents agreed that IP address management is essential to overall network management. This same percentage also agreed that they need an IP address management tool to get the job done. Another 89 percent said they see value in using specialized IPAM tools, and 77 percent said they have business justification for purchasing such tools.


The Payoff of an IP Address Management Tool


In the final series of questions we wanted to know what operational benefits network admins observed by using a specialized IP address management tool. The most important benefit was lower risk and improvement to mean time between failures (MTTF). A good IPAM solution is essential because it can help proactively avoid configuration errors and device conflicts. The second highest operational benefit is closely related to being able to improve mean time to recovery (MTTR).


What We Learned From Respondents about IP Address Management


Industry experience has consistently shown that lower risk coupled with improved MTBF/MTTR directly translate to greater efficiencies and cost savings. These savings are further amplified with additional savings in labor costs. When these cost reductions are combined they provide strong financial justification for acquiring an IPAM solution by delivering a payback period measured in only a few months.


Perhaps the most compelling evidence for IP address management is how it helps network administrators deliver reliable IT services in spite of every-day challenges like creating, migrating or re configuring subnets, maintaining high-availability of DHCP and DNS services, and ensuring reliable operations through monitoring of critical resources and proper forecasting and planning.


Your peers have spoken. The insights they provided are invaluable because they can help us learn and improve. We hope you find this survey helpful to that end. What are your thoughts?  Do your experiences align with the findings of this survey?


The survey results:

Click here if you would like to review Part 1 of this series

2014 has just begun, and yet it’s already shaping up to be the year of the Internet of Things (IoT). Everywhere you look you see articles about the explosion of virtual, clouds, and BYOD and you read about all the ways to benefit from new smart devices and sensors like thermostats and smoke detectors. Because we’re all rooted in the practical, we wanted to see how all of this is affecting you on the front-lines. Ultimately, the Internet of Things means more work (and job security) for an enterprising network administrator—more configuring, monitoring and troubleshooting. So it’s in this context that we launched a survey to learn how people approach IP address management in the age of BYOD and IoT.


The survey was conducted between December 9, 2013 and January 13, 2014 in our thwack community. Our goal was to understand IT professionals’ point of view on 13 questions organized under four major sections. We wanted to learn how they define IP address management and what tasks they typically engage in. We also wanted to know how much time they spend on managing IP addresses and what tools and capabilities they prefer. In total, we had 195 responses.


Profile of Survey Participants


Most respondents said they managed large networks. Nearly 1/3 said they manage more than 5000 IPs. About 1/4 of those surveyed said they represented organizations with between 500 and 2000 IPs. Then around 1/5 said they manage 2000 to 5000 IPs and the remaining group managed up to 500 IPs. The most common role was in Network IT Operations with the top three job titles being Engineer, Administrator, and Manager.


What Does IP Address Management Include?


Next, we asked, “What does a good IP address management solution need to offer?” We presented participants with a number of top-level capabilities and asked them to prioritize their answers as “must have,” “nice to have,” and “not needed.” The highest priority (must have) top-level capabilities are:

  1. Monitor IP address usage and IP resource utilization
  2. Accurately provision IP addresses and automate routine configuration tasks
  3. Manage and maintain IP address documentation


How Much Time Do You Currently Spend Managing IP Addresses?

We asked the respondents to cite how much time they spend managing IP addresses across a variety of activities including maintaining and publishing IP address documentation, managing DHCP and DNS configurations, monitoring and troubleshooting IP resources, and more. The weighted average across all participants was 38 hours each month, and 49 hours each month among administrators with more than 5,000 IPs.


What We Learned

We observed a couple of key concepts we learned from these initial questions. First, managing IP addresses is something not limited to large networks. Administrators working with networks of all sizes are impacted by IP addresses and infrastructure management. Second, while we intuitively understand the problems caused by managing IP addresses manually using spreadsheets, we cannot overlook the larger and related challenges associated with managing the entire IP infrastructure consisting primarily of DHCP and DNS servers.  Finally, we were surprised to observe that IP management consumed so much time.  An average of 38 hours a month is roughly equivalent to one person spending a full day each week. Translating this into dollars, we see that this equals about $23K annually or approximately a quarter FTE.


Below is a slide share presentation of the survey results


But we’re not finished yet. Join us again in the second of this two-part series as we explore what features admins think will simplify IP address and DHCP and DNS administration in the age of BYOD and IoT. Until then, tell us if your experiences coincide with these survey results. How much time do you spend managing IP addresses, DHCP and DNS systems, and monitoring and troubleshooting IP resources and issues? What makes this so difficult and time consuming?


What does the Windows XP rundown mean?

  1. Microsoft will no longer provide technical support for issues involving Windows XP, unless the customer has purchased a Premier Support Services contract.
  2. Microsoft will no longer provide security updates for the product, or anything associated with the product (for example, Internet Explorer 6).


Why is this important?

According to NetMarketShare, about 29 percent of the Internet-connected systems today are still running Windows XP, and there’s no universal agreement that this number is going to change in the next 90 days. Here’s a recap of the things IT pros need to consider:

  • Cost. It’s a no-brainer that switching to a new OS produces significant costs in terms of time, money and personnel, from up-front infrastructure cost to time spent training and educating end users. IT needs to look at the cost/benefit of replacing every Windows XP system with a new OS such as Windows 7 versus the cost of maintaining Premier Support Services. If neither of these options seems acceptable, one has to also consider the cost of remediating continual malware infections, potential loss of data due to socially engineered attacks or complete loss of use due to corruption or destruction as the result of malware. More on that to come. This is a scary thought given the fact that this is most likely what’s going to actually happen in many organizations; Windows XP systems will keep on going, but without any new updates.
  • Security. The end of support for Windows XP also means the end of XP patches. So, any security flaws not fixed after April 8 will almost certainly be exposed and exploited. Another security challenge facing XP goes beyond the OS itself, and has to do with the fact that there may not be a secure browser for use on the machine. Microsoft did not build IE9 for Windows XP. What remains to be seen is what Mozilla and Google do with respect to versions of Firefox and Chrome for XP beyond April.
  • Application availability. Some software vendors haven’t been prudent in updating their software applications to run on newer operating systems. In many cases, they’re 32-bit applications originally written for Windows 95 or 98 that still “play nice” on a Windows XP system, but require local administrator privileges to run. Newer operating systems, however, are not compatible with these applications. Businesses continue to depend on those applications and the operating system they run on. (We should note that with Windows 7, Microsoft introduced “Windows XP Mode,” which is a virtual environment running on Windows 7 Enterprise and Windows 7 Ultimate. However, many of the current issues with Windows XP support will also impact the “Windows XP Mode” environment, though possibly to a lesser degree because “Windows XP Mode” is not typically where the Internet activity is executed.) Nonetheless, organizations are caught between software vendors that aren’t updating their applications to run on newer operating systems, and Microsoft enabling this practice by providing Windows XP support within new operating system—until April 8, that is.
  • Organizational and end-user buy-in. For any IT organization that’s already experienced the pains of transitioning to VoIP, VDI or even installing Microsoft Office upgrades, the thought of introducing, selling and training leadership and end users on an entirely updated OS sounds like the opposite of fun. It’s crucial to get organizational and end-user buy-in, even when the reasons for making the change are entirely valid and will inevitably leave the organization better off.  


Additional References

For more information, we found the following articles helpful:


Be sure to weigh in on this issue over on the General Systems & Application forum here: Coming April 8: Windows XP Rundown. We’ve also got a XP rundown-related poll running that we invite you to participate in here: XP Support Coming to an End.

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