“Network infrastructure” used to be a code word for physical devices in the data center. Infrastructure managers were the folks who took care of servers, racks, power supplies, and the like.
To keep track of these physical components, network infrastructure managers turned to Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) solutions. By creating inventories and mapping out the connections between physical infrastructure components, DCIM solutions helped infrastructure managers cope with the ever-increasing complexity of the data center.
Until recently, virtual assets like IP addresses, including overarching IP plans, weren’t tracked alongside the network infrastructure. While ultimately related to physical components, planning and management of IP addresses were managed separately, sometimes by entirely different teams. IP address management (IPAM) was mostly confined to disjointed systems where planning and usage for assigning and decommissioning IP space had lived isolated and unactionable. Interaction between physical and virtual assets was rare.
Unified infrastructure management
Today, the line between physical and virtual infrastructure has all but disappeared. When we talk about managing network infrastructure, it’s assumed that every type of asset - physical and virtual - is included in the equation. Now that hybrid networks are the norm, network infrastructure managers are expected to keep tabs on every aspect of the assets under their control - whether it’s a server or a VM, a laptop or a cloud container.
Unfortunately, many of the tools used by network infrastructure managers haven’t caught up to this new reality. There are plenty of DCIM solutions out there to help manage physical infrastructure. There are plenty of IPAM solutions which rationalize the use of IP space. Yet precious few solutions handle both sides of the equation.
As a result, network infrastructure managers often find themselves trying to connect the dots on their own. They engage in the dreaded “swivel chair management”, flipping from one solution to the other. They look for plug-ins and integrations to harmonize disparate data sources in an attempt to avoid duplicate data and the inconsistencies that come with it. It all makes network infrastructure managers less efficient, and ultimately less effective.
NetBox is leading a new generation of infrastructure management solutions that erase the increasingly artificial barrier between data centers and virtual assets. By recognizing the interconnection between physical infrastructure and IP addresses, Netbox is paving the way for improved network efficiency and reliability. Along the way, it’s making the jobs of network infrastructure managers easier.
Inventory vs. Action
DCIM and IPAM solutions were never intended to be simple asset inventories. It’s not enough to know which assets you have. It’s about putting those assets to work in a coordinated (preferably automated) way. It’s about quality assurance and firm control over how assets are deployed. It’s about maximizing the use of assets across the enterprise and controlling the spending associated with those assets where possible.
All of these goals require a true network source of truth that spans both the physical and virtual realms.
After all, adding a device to the network involves more than just plugging it in. The device needs an IP address - one that isn’t already in use somewhere else. Automating that onboarding process requires not just an accounting of the physical connection to that device but where it sits in the virtual topology of the network as well. Only a solution that offers DCIM and IPAM functionality can automate the entire process.
Making changes to a data center deployment involves far more than simply shifting servers from one rack to another. Ensuring reliable connections between those physical devices and the virtual assets they serve requires perspectives on both sides of the infrastructure management equation - something that DCIM and IPAM solutions can’t effectively perform in isolation.
In today’s networks, everything that happens in the physical world echoes in the virtual world and vice versa. By bridging the gap between these two and accounting for the ripple effects, infrastructure management solutions like NetBox are making it easier for network teams to plan and execute deployments while avoiding unnecessary risk.