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IP address management solution in the works

Infoblox should help tackle long-standing issue with U network

IP address management is a big deal at the U. These days, most people have more than just a desktop computer — they have laptops, smartphones and tablets, too. And they’re on campus, every day, trying to connect to the Internet with their devices — sometimes without success.

Enter Infoblox, which focuses on software and hardware specifically for managing IP addresses and identifying devices connected to networks.

“People claim that we are running out of space. The new system will actually allow us to verify that. The current system does not,” said Florian Stellet, a computer technician in Common Infrastructure Services’ Systems Engineering area.

The University of Utah has approximately 350,000 IP addresses available, and about 288,000 DNS records in place. There should be plenty of IP addresses to go around, but the issue continues to be a thorn in UIT’s side. Trevor Long, associate director for Systems Operations, credits Clayton Barlow with describing the problem this way.

“Say there’s a man who’s won $10 million. He starts buying things and throws his leftover change in a drawer. Pretty soon, he’s out of money and thinks that he’s poor because the $10 million is gone, but he’s actually got $2 million in change in the drawer. But it’s in change. So it’s not contiguous space, and that’s one of the problems we’ve run into with IP address management.”

Through proper address management and best practices, both Long and Stellet hope they will find a lot of space out there that simply hasn’t been in usable form.

“It’s a big database that needs to be managed, and the current solution that we have in place is not very stable; there is no backup, and there is no redundancy,” said Stellet. “So if anything happens to it, that means our DNS resolution is down and people can’t get to where they need to get. It means someone has to get up in the middle of the night and fix it right then and there.”

In 2012, Infoblox secured a “Strong Positive” rating from Gartner — the highest rating given. With that kind of reputation, it stood out as a solution to a long-standing problem.

“The U really decided to make an investment,” Long said. “Our leadership looked at the problem and they said this is vital to business at the University. They’ve really committed to it.”

How exactly will Infoblox make things better? For starters, IP address management will be very much improved. Active directory integration will be much smoother. “That’s been kind of a pain point in the past,” said Long.

The delegated administration will also make life much easier for IT professionals.

“We foresee that being much improved in this new solution,” he said.

DNS blacklisting will be a feature as well.

“We can very quickly, if not in real-time, add malicious URLs to this system and the whole campus will be instantly protected from computers going to that site,” said Long.

There will also be less downtime. With the current system, there are no disaster recovery options. “We will probably be able to recover a lot faster than we currently do,” said Stellet.

It all sounds great, but when will it be implemented?

“We’re working around the Epic moratorium through June 1, so we’re feeling out exactly how that’s going to work,” said Long. “We would like it as soon as possible, but we have to be considerate of the hospital’s plans and what their schedule is.”

It’s also not the kind of thing that can be improved overnight, and Long and Stellet want to do some thorough planning to make sure they are able to anticipate any challenges that may arise. Campus and hospital IT professionals also created a committee to come up with true policies and procedures for how to properly manage IP space.

 “The biggest challenge will be getting everything organized,” said Stellet. “Since no one has been in charge of this for so long, it means we did not implement best practices in many areas, so now all of a sudden we have to convert chaos into best practices.”

“We’re really excited,” said Long. “We will sleep better at night.”

Last Updated: 4/13/21