How to gauge the value of DDI plugins

The ideal DDI solution uses automation to manage data, and every DDI vendor has a laundry list of plug-ins. But not all plug-ins are created equal.

No DNS is an island.  Given the power it wields over every device, application, and server on your network, the best DNS solutions are the ones that integrate with the entire enterprise.

When DNS, DHCP, and IPAM (DDI) systems require constant configuration to work with the demands of other elements of the networking stack, productivity and network performance inevitably suffer.  The ideal DDI solution uses automation to push out and pull in data without the need for human intervention.  These plugins should be easy to set up, foolproof to use, and low maintenance.

Every DDI vendor has a laundry list of plugins it provides.  (Here’s the list of BlueCat’s offerings, for example.)  Yet to truly understand the business value of those plugins, you have to look beyond the simple box-checking exercise.  Not all plugins are created equal.  Given the time and effort associated with the deployment, configuration, and maintenance of DDI plugins, it’s worth your time to dig a little deeper during the vendor selection process.

Here are some questions you should ask when evaluating the plugins of DDI vendors:

How easy is this integration to set up and deploy?

In an ideal world, every plugin would require a simple exchange of API keys to get you up and running.  The reality is that most so-called “out of the box” DDI plugins require a great deal of configuration to be truly functional.

Managing data pathways, ensuring data access, aligning outputs with business objectives – these things can take a lot of time to build if the DDI vendor doesn’t provide a fully functional plugin upfront.  A lot of these plugins are built as minimum viable products that push the real work of configuration off on customers or require extensive professional services work to get a fully functional data flow going.  Beware of these hidden costs.

At BlueCat, all our adaptive plugins are simple and easy to deploy, with little or no additional configuration required.  Many of them can be set up through a simple API key or a “one-touch” deployment model.  Simply pull down the plugin from our BlueCat Labs repository on GitHub, and get started in minutes.

Is this plugin certified?

Slapping together a basic plugin using API calls isn’t incredibly difficult.  It’s much harder to ensure that the plugin can handle the volume and unexpected complications of a production environment.  Given the core nature of DDI systems to any network, a buggy plugin could lead to dire problems across the entire enterprise.

The question then becomes:  what will your DDI vendor stand behind?  Have they done the testing necessary to ensure a stable plugin, or will they push that work onto your shoulders?  If something goes wrong, will the vendor offer support or hotfixes as part of their standard maintenance offering, or will that add another costly professional services engagement to your bill?

Unlike some other DDI vendors, BlueCat offers strong support for all its adaptive plugins.  When we certify plugins on BlueCat Labs, that means they’ve been through a rigorous testing procedure and are designed with all of the unique challenges of a production environment in mind.  If you subscribe to a BlueCat maintenance package, we offer full support for all our adaptive plugins as if they were part of the core product.

Can I customize this plugin?

Every company has unique business drivers that impact the contours and use of the network.  Whether it’s custom applications, unique cloud deployments, or compliance-related data requirements, any DDI system will have to work with a business-specific use case.

This can be a problem for DDI vendors who only offer “black box” plugins.  If a plugin can’t be customized in any way, then it isn’t nearly as useful in the long run.  It might accomplish a few obvious tasks, but it can’t handle the full range of what you really need it to do.

This is where BlueCat’s adaptive plugins really shine.  Unlike other DDI vendors, our plugins are open source and adaptable for any use case (that’s why we call them “adaptive plugins”).  You can do the Python coding yourself, or we can do it for you.  Our BlueCat Labs community also has a growing library of code and plugins created by our customers for their unique use cases.  If we see that one of those plugins fills a consistent need, we’ll even certify and support it.

With BlueCat’s adaptive plugins, the sky’s the limit on what your DDI solution can do.  You aren’t restricted to what DDI vendors think you might want.  Even better, you have access to a vibrant community of DDI users who can provide valuable insights into best practices and even the integrations they’ve created themselves.

Explore the world of BlueCat’s adaptive plugins on BlueCat Labs.

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BlueCat provides core services and solutions that help our customers and their teams deliver change-ready networks. With BlueCat, organizations can build reliable, secure, and agile mission-critical networks that can support transformation initiatives such as cloud adoption and automation. BlueCat’s growing portfolio includes services and solutions for automated and unified DDI management, network security, multicloud management, and network observability and health.

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