Test Plan

By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2008-02-06 Print this article Print

Wiscnet's technical leaders identified the key problems with their DNS and surveyed seven other state network providers about the systems they use to provide DNS. All but one use BIND running on a Unix system; the exception was a large state university that had recently implemented one of the DNS appliances that we ended up testing.

The RFP was sent out to DNS appliance vendors in December. The vendors whose responses best fit WiscNet's needs were Alcatel-Lucent, BlueCat Networks and Infoblox. Working with WiscNet officials, eWeek Labs developed 14 demonstration objectives that the participants would be expected to fulfill during a 75-minute presentation using their equipment (see chart, Page 38).
Each solution had its pluses and minuses (see review, Page 38), but at the end of the day, the vendor representatives failed to convince the audience that their products' benefits outweighed the costs and learning curves that would be required to implement them.

All the agencies, including WiscNet, use engineers-and help desk staff trained by these engineers-to keep the DNS systems up and running. And, during the evaluation, the IT professionals from WiscNet and the other state agencies considered whether a DNS appliance trumped a network engineer and Perl scripts for providing name resolution services.

Event attendees were definitely leaning toward passing up the appliances. Yet the dilemma for WiscNet remains: With network engineers ensconced in "other projects" and the DNS infrastructure limping along-not failing, but certainly not the picture of efficiency and health-how much longer can DNS go on?

Network managers and IT executives should consider the degree to which risk avoidance plays a role in making decisions about where to expend engineering resources in network maintenance. As one participant put it, when a DNS appliance is used, the vendor support staff becomes your organization's DNS expert.

The positive side of this is that there are some expert people working for the vendors whose solutions we tested. Further, vendor support staffers resolve DNS issues on a regular basis, whereas respondents to the WiscNet survey indicated their engineers dealt with DNS problems episodically.

The negative side to having the vendor become your DNS expert is the cost of a support contract. This is both an insurance cost and a line item charged directly to DNS support-a cost that is likely not as obvious when hidden in a staff engineer's salary.

In the end, the day ended with many questions unanswered-and many new ones asked.


Cameron Sturdevant Cameron Sturdevant has been with the Labs since 1997, and before that paid his IT management dues at a software publishing firm working with several Fortune 100 companies. Cameron also spent two years with a database development firm, integrating applications with mainframe legacy programs. Cameron's areas of expertise include virtual and physical IT infrastructure, cloud computing, enterprise networking and mobility, with a focus on Android in the enterprise. In addition to reviews, Cameron has covered monolithic enterprise management systems throughout their lifecycles, providing the eWEEK reader with all-important history and context. Cameron takes special care in cultivating his IT manager contacts, to ensure that his reviews and analysis are grounded in real-world concern. Cameron is a regular speaker at Ziff-Davis Enterprise online and face-to-face events. Follow Cameron on Twitter at csturdevant, or reach him by email at csturdevant@eweek.com.

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