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Automating IP Networks

Automating IP Networks

IP networks are the nervous system of modern enterprises. Large and small computers, devices and sensors, phones and gadgets, all communicate via IP numbers and domain names.

Several factors, including the rise of virtualization in the data center, have made the management of these numbers and names into a large and complicated task for enterprise IT.  Centralized management of IP addresses and domain names, with automated functions and tools, are now available as “DDI” solutions.  Enterprises evaluating these solutions have a number of criteria to consider.

Several trends in data centers and enterprise networks have put new pressure on network management.   The single biggest change is the rise of server virtualization, which has enabled a proliferation of inexpensive and rapidly-deployed virtual machines in the data center.  Redundant virtual machines improve the resiliency and performance of applications.  Many more virtual machines are used for testing, staging and development throughout the life-cycle of applications.  

Virtual machines are added and removed as applications are scaled up and broken down in a cycle that’s far more rapid than was ever applied to physical machines.  Private cloud systems carry these trends even further, with libraries of applications that can be deployed by end-users on demand.  All these virtual machines need to access their appropriate IP network, with appropriate numbers and access rules.

DDI solutions support DNS (Domain Name Services), DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) and IPAM (IP Address Management) for enterprise and service provider networks.

 Virtualization also increases the number of virtual network devices, such as those employed by hypervisors, storage endpoints, virtual switches, and virtual network appliances.  As a result, a single physical server may support dozens or even scores of IP addresses on multiple sub-networks.  In addition, virtual desktops are becoming popular; these replace a single desktop computer with a data center virtual machine and a desktop client device, which each have their own IP number.

Beyond the data center the rest of the enterprise network has also become more complex.  There are many new devices talking on the enterprise network, such as  building management systems, credit card readers, security entry devices, surveillance cameras, video conferencing systems, and even vending machines and elevators.

Employees bring their smartphones to work, and these demand Wi-Fi access.  Many enterprise networks already support voice over IP systems that link conventional hardware telephones and soft phones.  All these devices require IP numbers and appropriate connectivity.   The Yankee Group estimates that there are already four IP numbers per person on large company networks, and the number is growing. 

Steve Garrison is vice president of marketing at Infoblox. With more than 20 years in the networking industry, he has held a variety of marketing roles developing and implementing multi-level global strategies. Prior to joining Infoblox, Steve helped distinguish Force10 Networks among many competitive switching and network infrastructure companies by clearly articulating the company's contribution to network automation efforts. He received a B.S. in Ceramic Science from Alfred University and an M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from MIT. Steve also holds four patents and was a founder of the Ethernet Alliance.