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Enhance Data Management Efficiency Using DDI Metadata

April 2, 2020 | Written by: Surinder Paul | , , ,

DDI solutions consist of tight integration of DNS, DHCP and IPAM services and can be considered as the single source of truth for all IP-related data. This is evident because it contains most of the technical IP-related information, and thanks to the EfficientIP SOLIDserver rich metadata system, it is expandable much further.

Associating metadata with any object in the DDI engine allows us to propose facets other than purely technical ones for data management. Based on these additional data we can perform specific actions, from filtering, grouping and navigating in the hierarchy of objects to more advanced automation processes within the whole I&O ecosystem (Infrastructure & Operations).

Due to the coherent nature of the DDI mixing information on IP address plans, devices, DNS records and DHCP pools and leases, there are hidden technical links between each object family allowing network automation to be natively performed. As a simple example, the name associated with an IP address is linked to a DNS A record, an alias is linked to a DNS CNAME record and an IP reservation in a network is linked to a DHCP static address in the associated scope.

Metadata in SOLIDserver DDI

In EfficientIP’s SOLIDserver, metadata is additional information composed of a key and a value. Metadata is attached to any object within a specific area like a network, an IP address, an application or a device for example. In order to be easily manipulated and associated to objects, metadata are grouped together into coherent containers called classes. There are already multiple classes of metadata in the solution because the whole network automation process is based on these. A powerful system of inheritance and propagation of the metadata between any object, its successors and predecessors allows specific values to be applied to a single object or a whole hierarchy with a simple action in the GUI or an API call. Finally, classes can be applied to an entire set of data, to a group or to a single one. This 3-dimensional system composed of 1) classes, 2) inheritance and propagation, 3) coverage, is so powerful and so simple to set up that almost every installation of SOLIDserver takes advantage of it for performing automation tasks, from simple to complex ones, helping I&O teams in their everyday operations.

Metadata examples

The really advanced metadata models can be extended in order to embed information related to other domains linked to the business, the organization, the processes or specific nomenclature used elsewhere in the I&O systems. Here are some typical examples of metadata that are frequently used:

  • Localization: where is a device, a server, a printer or a camera (e.g. name of the site, the room or latitude and longitude)
  • Classification: billing department, asset number, application information like number of users, criticality, owner, object type, environment
  • Level of service: SLA level (on apps or devices), objects in maintenance mode (operation in progress)
  • Date information: start of contract, end of maintenance, end of validity, next maintenance window
  • Identification linking to another repository, when some master data is not the IPAM, this allows bidirectional synchronization and reconciliation process between systems

Metadata usage

As standard procedure, SOLIDserver internal network automation makes use of metadata values in order to perform specific actions whenever an event is triggered, such as an object creation or modification. Additional custom metadata are set on these objects to not only to label them, but also to perform actions. Here are some typical uses:

  1. Metadata can be used to filter the views in the GUI and in reports generated. Once we add the location to each IP network object, we can filter the network view by a new column based on this information. We can therefore build some reports based on this filtered view.
  2. Thanks to the smart folders feature, we can present on a tree view the objects organized by the value of one or multiple metadata and not just based on technical hierarchy. For example, browsing the set of objects by location and organizational unit rather than by the natural technical hierarchy for this set of objects.
  3. The internal automation processes that are launched when a specific event is triggered can also be enhanced with the metadata. This is typically what is performed in the Tufin SecureTrack automation where the Tufin Zone name associated with a network in the IPAM is used upon creation, modification and deletion to inform the Tufin engine of the information.
  4. For the benefit of the whole I&O ecosystem, the metadata can be used through the API in order to select only some objects in a specific call. This is for example what we use in the Ansible dynamic inventory which filters by type of server or environment all the nodes on which the configuration applies. It can also be used by a security solution to find all the networks with a specific label in order to apply specific security enforcement.

Metadata benefits

Adding and using metadata on objects within the various modules of SOLIDserver brings multiple benefits:

  • Accurate visibility: technical information is valuable, but when coupled with business and organizational information it can bring a lot more value to the whole ecosystem. In this context, SOLIDserver represents, without doubt, a repository of “golden records” for the whole IT infrastructure and application objects, at the heart of I&O operations.
  • Efficiency: manipulating large volumes of dynamic data can be complex and use a lot of resources. This is the case when dealing with devices, IP addresses, or networks on large infrastructures, and having the possibility to work on a subset of these data is key. Adding metadata allows aggregation and filtering for such simplification. The inheritance and propagation between objects in the same hierarchical structure allows very simple and fast updates of large volumes of data.
  • Openness to the outside world with extended ontology: data management requires structuring the objects or a schema. Linking data between different systems through metadata allows the IP information to help all other related IT workflows as it ensures valuable and up-to-date information.

Nowadays data is key, and metadata is pushing the limits even further. The ecosystem proposed by EfficientIP implements data and actionable metadata with a very rich solution, embedded by default in the product. It just requires you to make use of them, and imagine all the possibilities they enable.

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