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Apple seeks standard to appease angry university net managers

Apple pitches idea for new IETF effort to make "zero configuration" like its Bonjour work better across enterprise wireless networks

By , Network World
November 08, 2012 10:49 AM ET

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In general, university network managers want Bonjour, AirPlay and AirPrint to be scalable to thousands of devices, to work with wired and wireless networks from different vendors, to not negatively impact network traffic, to be easily manageable on an enterprise scale and to be provided at a reasonable cost.

In response to some of these concerns, Cheshire proposed to the IETF that MDNS be changed to allow for small multicast domains to be created on a large network, without losing the zero configuration and service discovery features.

Cheshire pointed out that several vendors - Xirrus, Aruba , Cisco, Aerohive and Ruckus - are selling Bonjour proxy devices to help enterprise customers by relaying multicast traffic across large networks, but that these devices are making the multicast flooding problem worse.

"The software that already exists in Apple Bonjour and Linux Avahi has some wide-area capabilities. We have some tools to build with, but we have not put it together right,'' Cheshire said. "The question is whether there is interest in the IETF to step in and do it better"

Representatives of Xirrus, Cisco and CheckPoint said they were interested in seeing this work go forward at the IETF.

'We would much rather put our development efforts into a standard protocol," said Aaron Smith, Director of Software, Applications and Services at Xirrus. "We are really heavy into the education market; nearly half of our engagements are in K-12 or higher ed. We're very interested in this kind of approach, especially if Multicast DNS would work better on Wi-Fi."

"I fully support this work," said Check Point Fellow Bob Hinden. "It's a real problem today. It's going to be worse with multiple subnets in the home."

Kerry Lynn from the IEEE outlined the requirements for a new standard that would fix MDNS

"We need to build something that's scalable, usable and deployable," Lynn said. "It needs to enable DNS-based service discovery across lots of links. It needs to work with both local and global use. And it needs to be scalable in terms of network traffic."

Thomas Narten, who works on Internet Technology and Strategy at IBM, led the discussion about creating an MDNSext working group. Narten said he expects the IETF to make progress on creating a standard fix to the Bonjour problem between now and when the IETF meets again in Orlando in March.

"There's a recognition of the problem and a willingness to work on it," Narten said. "We have to figure out how best to get to a solution. The universities are hurting; they're seeing this problem for real."

Read more about lans & wans in Network World's LANs & WANs section.

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