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How a DDI platform supports IP-based network management

A DDI platform simplifies IP network management in the cloud networking era. But collaboration among networking and other IT teams is crucial amid ongoing challenges.

It's not enough to assign IP addresses to a network. Management is also crucial, especially as cloud networking strategies grow. Certain protocols and techniques -- such as DNS, Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol and IP address management -- are essential to unify and streamline IP-based network management.

DNS translates IP addresses into domain names, which makes them readable to users. DHCP configures devices and assigns IP addresses within a network. IPAM helps network administrators manage IP addresses. DDI, or DNS, DCHP and IPAM, integrates these three services into a single platform that provides centralized management and automation.

DDI isn't a new concept -- Gartner coined the acronym in 2019 -- but it's one that few enterprises fully understand. Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) surveyed 333 DDI professionals and found that only 40% are successful with their DDI strategies.

"DDI is a strategic technology," EMA vice president of research Shamus McGillicuddy said. "It may not be seen by all as an area of innovation. You're not going to see it on any kind of hype cycle. But it's really critical in a lot of ways."

The importance of DDI

DDI platforms have become more vital as cloud strategies have grown. Network operations have entered the multi-cloud networking era, which means organizations need simplified, secure and centralized management approaches -- all of which tools in a DDI platform can provide.

Some network professionals prefer to manage IP addresses with spreadsheets or open source tools. But McGillicuddy said these alternative methods can't compete with an integrated DDI strategy. DDI does more than manage IP addresses. A successful DDI strategy helps organizations improve network resiliency, increase productivity and strengthen security, among other benefits.

Despite initial reluctance among network professionals, many find they need DDI as network management becomes more complex. The top three drivers of DDI investment -- hybrid cloud, network automation, and public and multi-cloud operations -- are also some of the top networking trends. When enterprises move into the cloud, they run into challenges that underscore the importance of DDI, so they eventually use it.

Organizations that implement DDI have several expectations for the tool. EMA research found the top capabilities enterprises want from a DDI platform are security, scalability and full integration. Multi-cloud support, network resiliency and network discovery are other important factors.

Top DDI use cases

EMA found that automation is an essential component of DDI. An overwhelming 99% of respondents said their organization automates workflows in their DDI platforms, and almost half said they fully trust these workflows.

Network and cloud discovery, which ranked as one of the most necessary DDI capabilities, also ranked as one of the top use cases for automated DDI workflows. Other DDI use cases include DNS and DHCP server configuration and deployments, IP address provisioning, and DNS record management.

Approximately 88% of respondents also said they use DDI as a source of truth in their networks. When organizations use DDI -- or any other approach -- to create a network source of truth, they can glean data about the network state and intent. Automation tools then use the acquired data to refine network management.

Although most organizations use DDI as a source of truth, only 39% of respondents said DDI is effective at it. The percentage of respondents who said DDI was effective were also more likely to say their DDI strategies were successful.

The positive correlation between the two metrics is an indication that enterprises need to use DDI as a source of truth to have success with their DDI practices, McGillicuddy said. However, network professionals who work with DDI more closely were pessimistic about the efficacy of DDI as a source of truth compared to other respondents, which indicates the additional support network teams need for DDI.

Best practices for DDI

DDI can simplify operations for network professionals, but it also has the potential to create challenges that further complicate strategies. Some challenges that can obstruct a successful DDI plan include increased network complexity, IT teams averse to change and a lack of skilled professionals.

Network professionals are an important part of the success of a DDI strategy. Much of the cynicism about DDI comes from network professionals who work more closely with the platforms compared to higher-up professionals like CIOs and IT executives.

To support network professionals, McGillicuddy recommended organizations follow best practices that have led to DDI success for other IT professionals. In particular, network teams should be a part of their organization's cloud strategy, work more closely with security teams and have a dominant role in their organization's approach to automation.

When enterprises are cognizant of the needs of their network professionals, it could reduce the skills gap and help teams find more success with DDI, especially as the technology becomes imperative to network management.

"DDI is no longer this utility that you forget about," McGillicuddy said. "You need to be diligent. You need to have an enterprise grade solution if you want to make things happen in the cloud and with automation."

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