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Do you need commercial DNS software?

Apr 21, 20043 mins
DNSInternet Service ProvidersNetworking

* Why some organizations use commercial software to accelerate DNS look-ups

Do you support several DNS servers? Is the process of matching domain names with corresponding IP addresses taking up more of your IT department’s processing power? 

If your answers to these two questions are yes, it might be time for you to consider replacing your open source DNS software with a commercial alternative.

Most corporations use the open source Berkeley Internet Name Domain (BIND) software to handle their DNS operations. BIND was developed in the late 1980s, and the Internet Systems Consortium is currently offering Version 9 of the software.

However, some companies with popular Web sites are finding it too expensive to run multiple BIND servers. Instead, they’re choosing commercial DNS software such as Nominum’s Foundation Caching Name Server, a dedicated DNS server that accelerates domain name look-ups.

That’s what happened to NetIQ. NetIQ sells a hosted service called WebTrends that provides analysis and reporting on how customers use a company’s Web site. The WebTrends service handles millions of DNS queries every day.

Until recently, NetIQ had four servers running BIND 8. But those servers were stretched to the limit, so NetIQ decided to purchase commercial DNS software instead.

“It was a scaling issue,” says Dustin Harris, IT network and security manager for NetIQ. “In order to keep up with growth, we would need to continue to add more and more hardware…BIND has its limitations; it can only handle so many thousands of queries per second. So we had to look for a commercial solution that could scale to meet our needs in a way that doesn’t require filling our data center with servers running BIND.”

NetIQ purchased Nominum’s Foundation Caching Name Server (CNS), which accelerates domain name look-ups. Harris says Nominum’s software handles “four times the capacity that BIND servers could do.” 

Harris has been running Nominum’s software since February, and he says it’s running well so far.

“We ran into a couple of problems that seemed to be performance bottlenecks,” Harris admits. “Nominum went back and duplicated our environment and gave us a new version. Then things went swimmingly after that. They proved they had the technical know-how to figure out what was going on and know how to fix it.”

Although NetIQ spent $30,000 on Nominum’s software, Harris says he will save money in the long run. “We probably would have had to buy more BIND servers at $5,000 a piece. I think we’ll see a return on this investment…as we continue to grow,” he says.

Harris says that whether other companies need commercial DNS software depends on how critical DNS services are to their network operations.

“An open source product would be fine if all we were doing was hosting a couple domains with not nearly this amount of volume,” Harris says. “But we’re really using [DNS] as a high-performance part of our infrastructure. With a commercial product we’re able to solve more of the unique problems we run into.”

NetIQ is the first U.S. corporate customer of Nominum’s Foundation CNS software.

This deal “highlights the tack that we’ve taken with our DNS…servers,” says Steve Whittle, director of sales engineering for Nominum. “BIND is designed to be all things to all people, whereas our services are targeted at specific and carrier-level requirements.”