Product Review: SolarWinds IP Address Manager
Product: SolarWinds IP Address Manager
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In any medium to large organization, IP address management can be a major chore. Some servers and devices require static IP addresses, while others use addresses that are assigned by a DHCP server. IT administrators are hard pressed to make sure that IP address pools are not depleted and that static IP addresses are not accidentally reused.
In the past, the most common way of keeping track of IP address usage was to use a spreadsheet. Microsoft has attempted to ease the burden of IP address management through a new Windows Server 2012 feature, but this feature does not benefit organizations unless they have already upgraded to the new operating system. Furthermore, IPAM is limited in its abilities. It only supports Microsoft domain controllers, DNS servers, DHCP servers, and NPS servers. Furthermore, these servers are only supported if they are domain joined and belong to a common Active Directory forest. Simply put, IPAM does not work with non-Microsoft or non-domain joined resources, which rules out using it in cross platform environments or in environments that use DHCP appliances.
As an alternative, Solarwinds offers a product called IP Address Manager. Like the Microsoft solution, SolarWinds IP Address Manager is designed to manage and report on IP address usage. Unlike Microsoft’s IP address management however, SolarWinds IP Address Manager (IPAM) works in cross platform environments. It is designed to work with Microsoft DHCP and DNS servers and Cisco DHCP servers.
Normally when I install a product, I like to attempt the installation without using the documentation. That way I can get a feel for how intuitive the deployment and configuration process is.
After downloading the trial version of SolarWinds IP Address Manager, I unzipped the file that I had downloaded and attempted to run the Setup program on a virtual machine that was running Windows Server 2012. Upon doing so, I received an error message stating that the .NET Framework was required and that I could click the Install button to install it. Although I attempted the automated installation, it simply did not work. I had to install the .NET Framework manually through the Server Manager. Of course that probably happened because I used Windows Server 2012, which is still brand new. Ultimately however, I was unable to make SolarWinds IP Address Manager work on Windows Server 2012 because of some compatibility issues with SQL Server. This isn’t really surprising however, since Windows Server 2012 was just released about a month prior to this review being written.
Incidentally, SolarWinds is currently working on a new version of the IP Address Manager, which I can only assume will support Windows Server 2012. The people at SolarWinds have indicated that with the next release of IPAM v3.1, IT organizations will get even more of the advanced functionality required by today’s increasingly complex and dynamic networks. SolarWinds IPAM 3.1 will provide not just monitoring, but integrated management of Microsoft DNS, Microsoft DHCP, and Cisco DHCP services, including DHCP functionality on Cisco ASA devices, as well as the ability to create split scopes, all from a single, unified web console. The release of 3.1 solidifies SolarWinds IP Address Manager as a true DDI player.
Since the software wasn’t compatible with Windows Server 2012, I decided to install the software on Windows Server 2008 R2 instead. Once I set up a server that was running the installation process was quick, easy, and almost entirely automated. The one glitch that I ran into was that when Setup completed, it opened the SolarWinds Web console. The problem is that Windows Server 2008 R2 enables Internet Explorer Enhanced Security Configuration by default. I was able to disable the Internet Explorer security and re-open the Web console, but it would have been nice if Setup had done it automatically (or at least reminded me to do it before running setup).
Working with the software
After the installation process completed, the first thing that I did was to take a look at the Start menu to see what options existed. I was really surprised by just how many options the software had added to the Start menu. You can see a small sampling of the menu items in Figure A.
Figure A: SolarWinds IP Address Manager adds numerous items to the Windows Start menu.
Next, I decided to try out the Web console. One thing that I especially liked about the Web console was that the sign on screen provided the default password and instructions on how to change it. So many of the products that I review require you to go digging through the documentation to find the default password, so this was a refreshing change.
Once I logged in, I was taken to the Discovery Central page, which you can see in Figure B. As you can see in the figure, the software gives you the option of adding a subnet, adding a DHCP Server, Importing an IP Address file, or adding a DNS server. There is also a network discovery option that is not shown on this screen.
Figure B: There are several different options for acquiring IP address information.
On my own network, I use a hardware based DHCP appliance for IP address assignment. I knew ahead of time that low end DHCP appliances weren’t supported, but I went ahead and chose the option to add a DHCP server just to see what the options were. As you can see in Figure C, the software gives you the option of acquiring status information via ICMP (ping) or you can collect information through WMI (Windows) or SNMP if they are supported by your DHCP server.
Figure C: There are four main options for polling a DHCP server.
Since my DHCP server doesn’t support SNMP, I decided to add a subnet. To do so, I went to the IP Addresses tab, clicked on Manage Subnets and IP Addresses and then clicked the Add button. Upon doing so, I was prompted to provide a name for my subnet and enter the subnet name. This caused the console to generate a list of all of the IP addresses in the subnet.
The next step was to scan the subnet list by selecting the IP addresses on the list and clicking the Scan button. This caused the software to check each IP address to determine whether or not it was in use. You can see the results in Figure D.
Figure D: SolarWinds IP Address Scanner generates a list of IP address usage within my subnet.
The information displayed on this list can also be displayed in chart view, as shown in Figure E. Chart view is useful for seeing how close you are to exhausting the addresses within your subnet.
Figure E: The IP address usage can also be displayed as a chart.
Probably the most impressive thing about Solarwinds IP Address Manager is the sheer number of reports that are available. The software provides a nice summary screen, but there are also a number of individual reports that you can generate to keep track of things like address availability. You can see some of the available reports in Figure F.
Figure F: SolarWinds IP Address Manager offers numerous reports.
Finally, SolarWinds IP Address Manager contains an alerting mechanism that can notify an administrator if various conditions occur. You can see a list of the available alerts in Figure G. The alerts can be anything from high subnet usage monitoring to a node going down.
Figure G: SolarWinds IP Address Manager can alert you to various conditions.
One of the things that I have always liked about SolarWinds is that unlike many other enterprise software vendors, they actually post pricing for their products on their Web site. I give SolarWinds a big kudos for that!
Pricing for IP Address Manager starts at $1995 (American Dollars) for up to 1024 managed IP addresses. The SolarWinds Web site also provides an option to get an online quote. Presumably this would allow organizations that need to manage large numbers of IP addresses to get a volume discount.
It has become customary when I write a review for this site to rate the product on a scale from one to five, with five being the highest possible rating. In the case of SolarWinds IP Address Manager, I give the software a rating of 4.8 which earns the product WindowsNetworking.com Gold Award.
I really liked the software, and it seemed to do a good job keeping track of IP address usage. I have to admit that there was a bit of a learning curve that I had to overcome, but the software was not overly difficult to use by any stretch of the imagination.
WindowsNetworking.com Rating 4.8/5