ITS is pursuing a new tool to replace the in-house applications that run the University’s Domain Name System and IP address management.

Service is critical to campus

Domain Name System (DNS) is a critical service that has a huge impact on the campus community’s day-to-day life. As with some other services on campus, when the existing DNS service works well, the campus community doesn’t know it exists or at least campus members don’t think about it.

For example, when you type a URL like “www.unc.edu” in a browser, DNS tells the application which server to go to. A URL is easy to remember for humans, but the real address is a complex string of numbers called an IP address that computers and network equipment use to direct network traffic to the correct destination.

A sample query with an imposed image of a simple diagram showing what happened to get the indicated answer.
The basic function of DNS

Advanced services desired

Since the service began, ITS has used in-house applications to run its DNS and IP address-management system.

“Although these are still working well, they are limited in what they can provide in the way of advanced services such as delegated administration, Dynamic DNS, single pane of glass data management and performance monitoring,” said Hiawatha Demby, Network DDI Engineer with Network Operations, a group within ITS Communication Technologies. “We are now looking at vendor solutions that could provide those options.”

Management would get easier

Demby and Will Whitaker, DDI Architect with Network Operations, are the service owners. In March 2017, they were tasked with finding a replacement tool.

“We want to have a solution in place by the end of the year,” Whitaker said.

The existing tool is primarily manual and has few checks and balances. Also, the campus wide DNS is fragmented, with departmental groups using different tools or manual approaches.

By purchasing a vendor-provided solution for DNS, DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) and IP address management, ITS plans to modernize the University’s system. Because an application programming interface (API) is available, ITS will have the opportunity to build new capability, such as for business processes, security and virtualization. With a new system, ITS also can create configuration efficiencies and reduce human error. In addition, this service would provide other campus groups with an easier way to manage DNS, Whitaker said. DNS will also begin serving an increasing role in providing protection from online threats from malicious sites and sources of malware.

“We definitely want to improve on what we’ve got and what we can offer others,” he said.

Comments are closed.