DNS management software

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

DNS management software is computer software that controls Domain Name System (DNS) server clusters. DNS data is typically deployed on multiple physical servers. The main purposes of DNS management software are:

  • to reduce human error when editing complex and repetitive DNS data
  • to reduce the effort required to edit DNS data
  • to validate DNS data before it is published to the DNS servers
  • to automate the distribution of DNS data


In 1995, there were only 70,000 domains in existence.[1] The way to register them was by email[2] and the way to publish them was BIND. By mid-1997, the domain count was 1.3 million.[3] As the number of domains and internet hosts skyrocketed, so too did the quantity of DNS data and the time required to manage it. Sysadmins responded by writing Perl or Shell scripts that helped automate DNS changes. These scripts were mostly in-house tools. The closest thing to widely available DNS management software was the BIND module in webmin, which provided web tools for editing BIND zone files.

During the late 1990s, the sheer quantity of DNS data was overwhelming the tools available to manage it. The cost of managing the data instigated the birth of DNS management software. The costs can best be explained by illustration. In 1998, three of the largest web hosting companies (HostPro, Interland, and Vservers) each hosted about 100,000 DNS zones. DNS changes were made by telnetting to a BIND master and editing zone files with a text editor. A staff of several DNS admins performed this task all day, every day. Their changes would only take effect after a BIND reload. Because disks were slow, it took several hours for BIND to do a full reload. If a DNS admin made a typo in a zone file, BIND would fail to parse that file and die. Often after hours of processing. Whoever noticed BIND wasn't running would have to read the logs, find the zone file with the error, manually review the file, fix the error, and then try starting BIND back up. Once up, the changes could propagate to the DNS slaves via zone transfers. Changes often took more than 24 hours to fully propagate.

DNS and databases[edit]

While struggling with the challenges of editing zone files, more than a few sysadmins noticed that SQL is a terrific place to store DNS data. By moving the Single Source of Truth from text files into SQL, DNS data could be validated and constrained before acceptance into the database. Export scripts could convert the SQL to zone files. Rsync could replace named-xfer for distribution, increasing security and reducing propagation time. Among large hosting providers, it became fashionable to store DNS data in SQL and build a custom interface for managing it. mysqlBind is one such DNS manager. It provides a web interface for data input and exports the data to BIND zone files.

In 2000, Daniel J Bernstein released Djbdns. One of the novel features was that tinydns, the included authoritative DNS server, served DNS directly from a CDB database. The cdb had to be compiled from a plain text file whose format was designed to be edited by scripts. Tinydns quickly became the second most popular DNS server and a number of DNS managers were released for it, including: VegaDNS, SuaveDNS, and NicTool.

In 2005, PowerDNS was released. One of its features was the ability to serve DNS data directly out of the SQL database, bypassing the export step entirely. PowerDNS also spawned a number of DNS managers that provide web interfaces to its SQL data store.


Using the RFC2136 DDNS update protocol, it is possible to change DNS zones without accessing the zone files. Management tools known to work that way are Admin4 and NicTool via its nsupdate[4] export mechanism.

Service Providers[edit]

DNS service providers often deploy different types of DNS servers in their networks. In addition, different answers may be provided to DNS clients based on the clients' geographic location, as determined by their IP address (GeoIP). The most practical way to manage such critical Internet infrastructure has been to rely on databases and complex DNS management software to ensure homogeneity and avoid single points of deployment errors.

DNS management software comparison[edit]

Feature NicTool VegaDNS mysqlBind Webmin Admin4 Microsoft DNS SuaveDNS Xname dnsadmin fmDNS Micetro
Language Perl & JS PHP C Perl Python C PHP & Perl PHP & Perl C PHP & JS C++
Database MySQL MySQL MySQL flat files - flat files or
Active Directory
Delegated Permissions Yes 3 groups Yes No No No No No No Yes Yes
Open Source Yes[5] Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No Yes No
Latest Release 2017 2016 2016 2017 2016 2012 2003 2005 2003 2021 2021

DNS Server Support[edit]

Name NicTool EfficientIP VegaDNS mysqlBind Webmin Admin4 Microsoft
DNS Manager
fmDNS Infoblox Micetro
BIND Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes No Yes No
tinydns Yes No Yes No No No No No No
PowerDNS Yes No No No No ? No No No
MaraDNS Yes No No No No ? No No No
NSD Yes Yes No No No ? No No No
DNS Server
No Yes No No No No Yes No No
Infoblox No No No No No No No No Yes
EfficientIP No Yes No No No No Yes No Yes

BIND zone file format[edit]

The BIND zone file format is a widely used industry standard documented in RFC 1035. Several other DNS servers, including PowerDNS, NSD, Knot DNS, Microsoft DNS Server, and Micetro by MEn&Mice have the ability to read BIND zone files and serve from them.

Resource Record Types Supported[edit]

Name NicTool VegaDNS mysqlBind Webmin Admin4 Microsoft DNS Manager ProBIND fmDNS Micetro
A,NS,SOA,PTR Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
MX,TXT,CNAME Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
KEY No No No Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
AAAA Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
LOC Yes No No Yes Yes No No No Yes
SRV Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
NAPTR Yes No Yes No Yes Yes No Yes Yes
SSHFP Yes No No No Yes No No Yes Yes
RRSIG Yes No No No Yes Yes No No Yes
NSEC Yes No No No Yes Yes No No Yes
DNSKEY Yes No No No Yes Yes No Yes Yes
DS Yes No No No Yes Yes No Yes Yes
NSEC3 Yes No No No Yes Yes No No Yes
NSEC3PARAM Yes No No No Yes Yes No No Yes
IPSECKEY Yes No No ? Yes ? ? No Yes
DNAME Yes No No ? Yes Yes ? Yes Yes
SPF Yes No No Yes Yes No No Yes Yes
  • Microsoft DNS manager supports DNSSEC from Windows Server 2012 onwards. Some of the DNSSEC records can not be directly added but are generated during zone signing and managed as such.

DNS software homogeneity[edit]

Primary reasons for DNS providers (especially root operators) to use different DNS servers is code diversity and application performance. Code diversity makes it less likely that a performance or security bug in one DNS server could be exploited to inflict a Denial of Service attack upon an organization. It is for this reason that NSD and Knot DNS are frequently used by root and TLD operators. DNS management software can greatly simplify publishing DNS data to varying DNS servers.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Internet Domain Survey, 1995". ISC. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
  2. ^ Simerson, Matt. "Domain Registration in 1996". Archived from the original on June 5, 2015. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
  3. ^ "Internet Domain Survey, July 1997". ISC.
  4. ^ A, Beeson. "NicTool Export BIND nsupdate". github.
  5. ^ Simerson, Matt. "NicTool Source Repository". GitHub. Retrieved September 25, 2013.

External links[edit]