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Does Microsoft IPAM Get the Job Done?

Level 9

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.

15 Comments
muwale
Level 12

nice

cahunt
Level 17

I'm always up for a challenge... if it's a budgetary must.

jkump
Level 15

At least some honest words, I too will be undergoing this same evaluation and it is nice to have a few extra arrows in the quiver even if they are just someone else's opinions.  I am a scientist and believe in the value of seeing results with my own eyes.  I look forward to reading your Redmond article as well as evaluating these products.

mr.e
Level 14

Thanks for the post.  Although we already use SolarWinds IPAM, it's nice to see comparisons with other vendors' solutions. 

jhandberg
Level 13

I have been trying to get our organization away from spreadsheets for some time.  I can't convince the bean counters to let me buy an IPAM solution.  I have been trying to get the SolarWinds solution, but in the process I also evaluated Infoblox.  Due to how our licensing agreements work with Microsoft, theirs is the obvious free (or included) solution.  We had no trouble with managing our DHCP or DNS servers, but managing static IPs is painful.  And we have a lot of them, several dedicated subnets for different purposes.  We also have no training on this Microsoft IPAM and just did some reading and brought it up.  I doubt I will ever get the $$ to purchase a solution, unless it is driven by something at a higher level in the state agencies.  If that happens, I won't get a choice of solution.

goodzhere
Level 14

I never even thought of using Microsoft's solution.  So this just reiterates my initial thought.

mr.e
Level 14

Agreed.  Instead of adding anther feature.., I think MS should focus more on improving and fixing the many apps they already have.  Just a thought...

Jfrazier
Level 18

Good points here...  mr.e‌ also has a good point for Microsoft

jhandberg
Level 13

Microsoft might get around to fixing there stuff in another 10 years or so.  Either that or break it worse.

mr.e
Level 14

Yo are soooooo right about that.  Lol!!! 

Jfrazier
Level 18

In typical Micro$oft fashion they'll probably make it worse or rip out the good parts.

mr.e
Level 14

That's actually classic technology tactic and MS uses it quite a bit... 

Offer a freebie -- even if it's not ready for prime time -- to get people hooked. And, it takes customers away from other vendors that have mature apps -- albeit for a sizable cost. 

So, folks that are focus on $ alone will decide for the"half-baked freebie" dismissing the potential administration headaches -- sometimes even without TCO analysis.  After all, we (techies) are paid to support the network tools, regardless of their originating cost. 

Jfrazier
Level 18

It's like a crack dealer...the first one is on me.

jhandberg
Level 13

Or like our organization where it was MS or nothing due to tight budgets and bean counters that can't see the ROI.

jkump
Level 15

Do you have a criteria listing or some sort of evaluation plan that you used to perform this review?  I ask as I am starting my own evaluations and was looking for some basics to start from.  I know each environment is different but sometimes having a few bread crumbs helps..... 

About the Author
9 time Microsoft MVP and freelance writer. Formerly a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities. Previously worked as a network administrator for several large insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox.