Tip of the Trade: IP Address Management

By Carla Schroder (Send Email)
Posted Mar 3, 2008


An integrated network discovery/IP address tracking/DNS and DHCP-management application is a great time-saver on even the smallest of networks; it's indispensable on larger networks. IP Address Management has historically been restricted to Windows shops and organizations willing to pay in the five-figure range for the integrated network discovery tool. This is changing, now that three recent prefab open source IPAM apps have hit the market.

Commercial IP Address Management (IPAM) products are odd beasts. They offer comprehensive feature sets, but most are Windows-only and priced in the five-figure range, with a license cost based on the number of managed addresses.

Unix and Linux admins who don't have five-figure budgets are used to writing their own IPAM tools using standard applications like PHP, MySQL, Nmap, Netcat, fping, Kismet, sed, awk, snmp and gosh knows what else. You can easily cobble up a pretty good network discovery and reporting system, but assembling a unified controller that manages name services as well is a fair bit of work. Fortunately, a few prefab open source IPAM application are worth a look.

RackTables calls itself a "management framework for rackspace, IP addresses, servers, switches, routers and much more!" It has a Web interface, does reporting and configuration, and manages name services. RackTables is based on PHP5, Apache and MySQL. The documentation is rather sparse, so it takes a fair bit of exploration to discover what does what. For the most part, though, RackTables is pretty easy to figure out.

IPplan is mature and well-maintained. It is yet another PHP-based application that supports pretty much any database you want to use on the backend. It is well-documented, has a pleasing, well-organized Web interface and can be used for DNS management. It imports network definitions from routing tables as well as data from tab-delimited and XML files, finds free address space, supports VLANs, has an audit log, and handles NAT. IPplan's one downside is it uses PHP4, which is dangerously old and insecure.

IP Reg is also MySQL/PHP-based. It's so new, it squeaks. It has a similar feature set to the others, plus it displays addresses in use in colors for different network segments.

Another option is to use these tools as inspiration for your own custom solution. All three are licensed under the GPL, so you can re-distribute your modified versions or contribute back to the original project, a nice thing to do because the Unix/Linux world needs more good-quality IPAM applications that integrate gracefully with name services.

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