Storing IP addresses as integers in Python
Oct 07, 2009

I just saw this very interesting (for a programmer) blog entry on Storing IP addresses as integers. As the article says, anyone who wants to store IP addresses in a database is generally going to do as a string. However if you're really concerned about memory efficiency, you might want to find a lighter data type to use. Since an IP address is really just a collection of integers it would make sense to store it as an integer, however doing so without losing important information (specifically, the placements of the dots) becomes an issue. The blog post in question introduces the the pack() and unpack() functions, which 'allow you to create and extract data into and out of binary-packed strings' and provides the Ruby code necessary to encode an IP address as a simple integer and decode it back to a dotted quad. I thought this was pretty cool, so I decided to write the equivalent Python code. This is what I ended up with: It seems to work as advertised, though the packed string the encode() function returns is different from what Ruby gives you, so they won't interoperate (it would probably only require changing the pack() and unpack() formats to do so, but I didn't feel like experimenting to figure out which ones). Of course, being a Django guy, the immediate application of these functions that I see is creating a new IPAddressField that stores the address as an integer instead of a string transparently.
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