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Network-Engineering | 5 min read

NetBox Software solution

Christian Weber
January 2021
written by Christian Weber
Network Support Engineer
+6

IP addresses, equipment racks, devices, circuit connections, virtual machines, and sensitive credentials – everything can be neatly organized with NetBox. Find out how you can improve your efficiency using NetBox as your network Source of Truth!

Veritas, a goddess in Roman mythology represents the truth. She always has been drawn naked while she is holding a mirror in her hand, which symbolizes the naked truth. Like in ancient stories modern network solutions need also truth, probably not the naked truth, but a single source of truth (SSoT). In this blog, I will show you, why and how Network Engineers need to have a single source of truth.

Can you imagine starting Network documentation from scratch, editing few excel spreadsheets? Filling tables full of IP addresses and drawing Visio graphics of your network environment, while still having an overview of the network documentation and of all its parts.

NetBox help us building one source of truth by managing your documentation, IP addresses, and infrastructure onto one tool, to the only source of truth from which you can share the knowledge for all the stakeholders.

More than an IPAM or what is the use case

NetBox’s main purpose is to manage and document networks, especially known for its IP address management (IPAM), but it is much more than that.  It can also be used for inventory, design, planning, and with the right add-ons automation too and that are the advantages. It also brings a great tool to document a physical Rack, everything in it, and manages free space on it. I familiarized myself with this tool by simply planning to document an existing environment.

Available settings are:

  • region (can be a customer/ City / kanton / Country)
  • sites/locations (your office/ DC)
  • tenants
  • adding racks/ physical/virtual
  • Manufacturers
  • Device roles / parent – (could be Router / Switch / VM / Power Device / LAB)
  • Device Types
  • Access
  • Power supply/ power modules
  • Wiring between devices (including wire types)
  • Cable management
  • IP address management
  • And so on…
NetBox Software solution

Difference between other software solutions

What can NetBox do that other similar software solutions are able to do as well? The examples of other solutions are phpIPAM; SolarWinds IP Address Manager; Microsoft IP Address Management Server and so on.

For Example, phpIPAM is great for what it says IPAM but not for a whole overview of a network including devices, wires, or racks. NetBox allows us to create a more detailed and consolidated overview, a central repository of your IT environment. With these key benefits, you can standardize your network and use the knowledge to feed other services. With the integrated RESTful API repository, you’re able to start network automation. The APIs can be used for tools such as Ansible or Puppet for example.

NetBox Software solution

IPAM

IPAM is a big part of the NetBox software solution. If we look further into IP address management, there’s need to have a global sight. Large subnets can be created fast and their dependencies between subnets were well resolved with parenting. Through status, you’re able to set your IP-addresses as active, reserved, or deprecated what can be clearly helpful.

Infrastructure management

Another part of NetBox is their infrastructure management or Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM). Especially the part of sites and racks are useful when it comes to Datacenter which not often visited. For example, a field engineer can, within that information, see which rack or which device can be found or mounted at their correct place. 

NetBox Software solution fiber patch panel

Pros & Cons

What are the advantages and disadvantages of NetBox:

+ IPAM and Infrastructure management in one tool

+ Easy manageable and operable GUI

+ API library

+ Upload functionality with excel

–  Difficulty installation (if you follow the default installation path, using docker is much simpler)

–  Dependencies are not always clear when writing documentation.

–  No built-in graphical output (but possible with additional software)

Conclusion

I recently set up a NetBox demo environment for a customer in the ISP area, I could then present the software as a replacement for their existing documentation solution. I have listed some questions that I was asked by this customer:

  • Q: Is it possible to construct a network layout as Visio do?
    A: Not directly, with the base installation of NetBox, you have to use an additional tool to make your connections visible and create a network layout.
  • Q: We need more columns in some fields e.g. in the IP-Address field, can we add more?
    A: It’s possible to add additional columns and other customizations.

All in all, it’s a solid product for companies with complex networks and multiple data centers, helping them to gain insight into their network.  The advantages can be huge with a proper implementation. In my opinion, NetBox is a good solution that fits in small and large companies alike.

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+6
Christian Weber
January 2021
written by Christian Weber
Network Support Engineer

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