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Review: DNS/DHCP Appliances


Today's enterprises rely on DNS and DHCP for business processes ranging from activity tracking to compliance auditing to VoIP (voice over IP). But distributed organizations often need to roll out DNS and DHCP servers across remote sites, a management and operational nightmare.

DNS/DHCP appliances are designed to simplify deployment of critical services in remote and branch offices by tackling problems like change replication and inadequate reporting and management. They also improve DHCP uptime by allowing for seamless failover.

To test these claims we created a multilocation company with both VoIP and NAC (network access control) in its future. We asked vendors to send DNS/DHCP appliances configured to provide HA (high-availability) and failover capabilities for maximum uptime. Infoblox and International Network Services (INS) sent five appliances each to our Syracuse University Real-World Labs®. We used four as HA pairs on separate networks and one as a management server. MetaInfo sent four appliances, and we installed its management UI on a Windows 2003 server.

BlueCat Networks declined our invitation. Men & Mice's eponymous product manages existing DNS and DHCP servers and wasn't a fit (see "Adding Management to Existing Services," for more on software products).

Problem Solvers

All in all, we liked what we saw. System setup was a little spotty, as were logging and IP address reporting. And not everyone needs one of these puppies: If you're mainly passing out addresses to endpoints and have little need to report on activities, Microsoft and ISC (Internet Software Consortium) DNS and DHCP servers will suit you fine. But more complex enterprises face problems that these appliances can solve. As the number of branch offices that warrant local DNS/DHCP servers grows, for example, DNS and DHCP infrastructure management issues increase exponentially. Replicating changes to multiple DNS and DHCP servers can become uncomfortably complex, and inadequate reporting and management of address space can come back to bite you. All the devices we reviewed provide robust, simplified DNS/DHCP management and configuration.

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