To boost IT efficiency and better support fast, reliable network access, Computacenter wanted to simplify IP infrastructure management. It chose to deploy Windows Server 2012 to take advantage of the IP Address
Management (IPAM) Server feature, together with enhanced failover capabilities. Now, Computacenter can more effectively track IP address data to improve efficiency—while strengthening the reliability of its core infrastructure.
Computacenter takes pride in its pursuit of continuous innovation. The UK-based IT services provider has a history of extensively testing and using emerging technologies to manage its own environment before introducing these solutions to its customers.
Recently, Computacenter’s Germany subsidiary saw an opportunity to improve the company’s approach to IP address management. “IP addresses are like the heartbeat of a company,” says Michael Ehlert, Solution Manager at Computacenter Germany. “Conflicts between
IP addresses or having too few addresses available means some people can’t connect to the corporate network, which directly impacts productivity.”
Computacenter Germany relied on a spreadsheet to track static IP addresses. But IT leaders found that it was cumbersome and time-consuming to keep this information up to date. In fact, executives noted that a staff of five devoted a total of 1.2 work weeks
each year to this task alone. Also, because use of a spreadsheet required extensive manual data entry, it introduced opportunities for error.
In addition, the company wanted to increase fault tolerance for its Domain Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) servers, the computers used to assign IP addresses to network-enabled devices. Computacenter Germany used the DHCP split-scope configuration in
Windows Server 2008 R2. But this configuration did not ensure complete synchronization of IP address information between multiple DHCP servers.
“Address management is essential to our operations, and we know that every large company faces the same kinds of challenges we do,” says Ehlert. “So we were eager to find a solution that we could use both internally and to better serve our customers’ needs.”
Computacenter Germany chose to take part in the Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program to evaluate the release candidate of Windows Server 2012, the latest version of the Windows Server operating system.
||With Windows Server 2012, we’ve moved from tracking IP addresses in a spreadsheet to using the really slick-looking IPAM console to see everything at a glance. This will improve accuracy and reduce the time needed for IP address management
by 50 percent.
| Stefan Süsser
System Analyst, Computacenter Germany
For Computacenter Germany, two enhancements in particular to the architecture of Windows Server 2012 offered the most significant and immediate advantage: the addition of the built-in IP Address Management (IPAM) feature and support for DHCP Failover. “We were
very excited to start using the new IPAM feature so we could free ourselves from managing IP addresses in a spreadsheet,” says Stefan Süsser, System Analyst at Computacenter Germany. “And we saw the improvements to configuring DHCP failover in Windows Server
2012 as a cost-effective way to strengthen network availability.”
The IPAM role in Windows Server 2012 includes components for automatic discovery of IP address infrastructure, monitoring of DHCP and Domain Name Service (DNS) servers, IP address usage monitoring, and auditing of server configuration changes. It also provides
tools for migrating existing static IP address information from external data sources. DHCP Failover supports complete synchronization between two DHCP servers, enabling uninterrupted distribution of dynamic IP address data to client computers in the same
subnetwork—even if one of the servers becomes unavailable.
In a test lab environment, the company’s IT team used the Server Manager console in Windows Server 2012 to deploy the IPAM role on a single server. Additional test environment components included two DHCP servers, a single DNS server, and four PCs. Once
installed, the teamed initiated the auto-discovery task to locate DHCP and DNS servers and link them with the IPAM service. The team then configured DHCP Failover in active-active mode. In this setup, two DHCP servers contain identical IP address lease data
and each server is fully capable of delivering this information to any network-connected computer.
After a series of successful tests over the course of one week, Computacenter deployed Windows Server 2012 to its production environment. The company uses HP ProLiant servers to run Windows Server 2012 server roles, IBM servers for storage, and hardware
from Cisco to handle networking. Administrators now use tools in the IPAM console to monitor the health of DHCP and DNS servers, track IP address usage, and manage IP address allocation to 5,000 PCs, laptops, and mobile computing devices.
By using Windows Server 2012, Computacenter Germany is experiencing the following benefits:
Increased efficiency of IP address management by 50 percent. Before, Computacenter tracked allocation and usage of IP addresses in a spreadsheet, which required approximately one hour and twenty minutes each week to maintain.
Now, administrators can always see the most current address inventory data, view statistics on usage over time, and allocate addresses to devices—all from a single interface. “With Windows Server 2012, we’ve moved from tracking IP addresses in a spreadsheet
to using the really slick-looking IPAM console to see everything at a glance. This will improve accuracy and reduce the time needed for IP address management by 50 percent,” says Süsser.
Increased fault tolerance of IP infrastructure. By taking advantage of support for DHCP Failover in Windows Server 2012, Computacenter Germany is better equipped to provide continuous network availability to employees, even if one of the
DHCP servers assigned to a subnetwork fails. “Having redundancy built-in gives us tremendous piece of mind and eliminates the need to build and maintain complex workaround solutions,” says Süsser.
Enhanced competitive edge. As the first enterprise IT service provider in Germany to implement Windows Server 2012, Computacenter Germany takes pride in furthering its reputation as an industry leader. “With Windows Server 2012, we now have
access to the most advanced set of tools for monitoring our company’s heartbeat, our network infrastructure,” says Michael Hurst, Solution Director at Computacenter Germany. “And, our customers are excited that we’ve deployed the latest server technology so
that we can advise them on how to use it to improve management of their IP address space. In fact, we’re currently in discussions with three customers about dedicated deployments of Windows Server 2012, and we’ve already initiated a pilot project involving
IPAM with one of those customers. Adopting Windows Server 2012 has been a huge win for us.”
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