IP address management (IPAM) software maker Infoblox Inc. has launched a new product, IPAM Insight, which the company says will give virtualization users a more cohesive view of their Layer 2 and Layer 3 networks in vSphere virtual environments.
IPAM Insight is based on a plug-in for VMware vCenter developed using VMware’s vSphere application programming interfaces (APIs). It draws virtual machine (VM) and virtual network data from vCenter into a portal where the data is correlated with Infoblox’s existing IP address tracking for physical devices.
The combination, according to Steve Nye, Infoblox executive vice president of product strategy and corporate development, is meant to bridge the gap between virtualization and networking teams. IP address management is still often done manually and tracked using Excel spreadsheets, he said.
In addition to automating the process of assigning IP addresses to VMs using the IPAM software, IPAM Insight “will allow users to know things they don’t know today,” according to Nye. For example, IPAM Insight will offer the ability to non-disruptively test “what-if” scenarios, such as gauging the impact on the virtual environment if a switch is removed from the network.
Bracing for IPv6, virtualization expansion
Daniel Boyd, senior network architect for Berry College, located near Atlanta, Ga., said his organization is still in the process of moving its IP address data into the Infoblox IPAM application, but will also look into using IPAM Insight.
“We’re in the middle ground between Excel and full IPAM deployment [currently],” Boyd said. The transition between the two approaches can be slow, especially because its internal IP addressing scheme is not consistent with the way IPAM manages things. Boyd said the college will have to shrink its internal subnet sizes and reorganize them, to cut down on the time IPAM spends crawling the network looking for IP addresses. “When we tell [IPAM] to discover the network, we want there to be a couple hundred addresses to ping, rather than a couple thousand,” he said.
Boyd said his organization is undertaking the project in part to avoid the added complexity on its way with IPv6. The length of an IPv6 address is 128 bits, compared to 32 bits in IPv4, making IPv6 addresses less manageable using spreadsheets and memorization.
But once that process is complete, according to Boyd, assuring proper correlation between physical and virtual IP address space in his environment will be key for admins, even though the environment isn’t very large -- with five physical hosts and about 85 VMs. Boyd’s organization handles the campus-wide IT environment for some 2,200 students and faculty with four admins, who manage both networks and servers. “Managing the virtual infrastructure without having to put eyes on different applications and without a lot of bodies running around could simplify and consolidate our management processes.”
However, Boyd says before IPAM Insight is deployed in his environment, his department will have to be able to demonstrate its ROI in management cost savings.
A niche product in a broad market
Meanwhile, IPAM Insight is not without its own costs. Pricing for the software starts at $14,995 in the United States and $17,995 in Europe and Asia Pacific. IPAM Insight also requires an Infoblox-1102 network change and configuration management hardware appliance, which is included in that price.
That might be a tough pill to swallow for organizations that have already bought into vertically integrated network management tools from big vendors such as Cisco Systems. At the same time, some shops might worry whether such tools can successfully handle heterogeneous and complex networks.
“For some shops, handling a mixed environment might be the biggest issue, but another use case [for Infoblox] is when existing tools don’t scale,” said Jim Frey, managing research director for Portsmouth, NH-based Enterprise Management Associates, Inc., though he acknowledged that Infoblox is in a fairly narrow niche market.
But, he added, this IP address management market, while a subset of a much larger network management infrastructure market dominated by big players, holds its own, because heavy hitters see the space as “narrow enough that it’s not a compelling opportunity, and they don’t see their main competitors getting into it.”
While a specialized tool like IPAM Insight is going up against the “board level account control” of large vendors, there’s more opportunity for the IPAM Insight tool to complement rather than conflict with offerings from networking heavy hitters, according to Frey. “Large vendors often offer IPAM through partnerships with companies like Infoblox,” he said.
Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for SearchServerVirtualization.com. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.