10 Things I Learned about DNS in my First 30 Days at BlueCat

Jadecy Kidane

April 15, 2019

Hi there! I’m Jadecy Huynh, BlueCat’s new Marketing Content Manager. When I joined BlueCat a short month ago, I knew almost nothing about DNS. As someone who admittedly has no technical background, I knew I had a big hill to climb. But to my own surprise, I’ve absorbed more than I could imagine and I’m excited to tell you all about it.

1. DNS stands for Domain Name System.

Let’s be honest, I had no idea what DNS was until I started at BlueCat. So what is it? Simply put, DNS finds a website’s corresponding IP address. Computers understand websites as IP addresses, or a series of numbers. We as humans know websites in their text form (think of bluecatnetworks.com or google.com). When you type a site into a web browser, DNS identifies the IP address for the desired website so you can actually get to it.

2. Going to a website is a lot of work.

While it’s easy to just type in a website, what’s happening behind the scenes is another story. After hitting enter, you begin a DNS query. Your computer connects to a DNS server and its purpose is to translate websites into IP addresses. The DNS server communicates with external servers throughout the world to find this information. Sometimes the first external server doesn’t have the IP address and directs the DNS server down the line until a server has the answer. The DNS server sends back the IP address to the computer, which now knows where to go for the website. Keep in mind that all of that takes place in fractions of a second.

3. DNS has friends.

Two friends specifically: DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) and IPAM (Internet Protocol Address Management). Together, they’re known as DDI. All three are interconnected in the world of networking. DHCP is the process of dynamically assigning IP addresses to devices so they can connect to a network. In case you’re wondering, that means not every device has a fixed IP address. IPAM is an essential tool used to manage and track IP addresses. Network administrators need to know which IP addresses are being used or have been allocated.

4. To quote our CTO Andrew Wertkin, “DNS is a chump”.

The invention of the internet and DNS was long before LTE and fibre internet. All of that back and forth between computers and servers took time. To guarantee quick responses, DNS was designed to be fast, not secure. Adding security features meant extra layers that would add to delivery time. What does that mean for DNS? It is vulnerable. DNS is a way bad actors can access a network so DNS security is not only important but necessary for any organization.

5. Replacing IT infrastructure is like heart surgery.

DNS is part of IT infrastructure and it’s a pain to replace at any company. Infrastructure in any context speaks to the guts of a system and no one goes about changing it unless they have to. But like heart surgery, it changes your life. It ensures life can go on and with ease. So while changing how DNS is managed can be daunting, I see it as a means for business transformation. Every company is challenged with innovative ways to operate more efficiently and sometimes that answer is in your gut.

6. If DNS and its friends are down, then we’re in trouble.

When DDI is not working, that means devices and endpoints are not able to communicate with each other. What does that mean for a business? It could be as benign as not being able to print your presentation deck. It could also be as impactful as an ecommerce website losing millions of dollars in potential revenue because customers can’t access the site. In a healthcare environment, the consequences can be dire. Today’s hospital devices often rely on a network connection to receive instructions or deliver data. Any hiccup with DDI leaves patients at risk from several perspectives. So when I say we’d be in trouble, I’m not kidding.

7. There are organizations using spreadsheets to manage their DNS.

This is the scariest things I’ve learned. The larger the organization, the larger the network, the larger the DNS complexities involved. I love a good spreadsheet as much as the next person, but using a single file to define and manage how an entire network and its devices connect to each other seems precarious to me. If that doesn’t sound like a big deal, here’s an example:

A global energy distribution company has a head office, global satellite offices, and distribution centers that encompass a couple hundred thousand devices. This is also a growing company that bought two distribution companies in the past year along with all of their devices, bringing the grand total to half a million devices. Depending on an IP address spreadsheet to store all of the DNS information involved in an organization this big is a significant ask. But keep in mind that it would also need to be maintained and highly available for all of the IT teams across this global enterprise to access. The reality is that there are plenty of enterprises out there whose DNS is a ticking time bomb.

8. DNS is everywhere.

You may have gathered by now that DNS is all around us. It enables the connectivity we rely on. From the influx of IoT devices to more web-based platforms, the internet is possible because of DNS. From a user perspective, we don’t think of how these things work. We expect to ask Siri any question we can think of, or instantly buy and track that package from Amazon. And that’s nice. But when you peek behind the curtain, it’s fascinating to realize that we take the ease of being connected for granted.

9. DNS is sexy.

Before BlueCat, I was at a big data and analytics company. They are hot topics in the tech world and great, attention-grabbing words. DNS didn’t have the same effect until I learned about BlueCat DNS Edge. The idea that a client-facing firewall can gather DNS data from every device on the network, analyze that data in real time, and leverage that information to drive company-wide innovation is pretty amazing. Don’t let all the acronyms and technical talk fool you. DNS data is powerful.

10. DNS is a highly technical subject.

As much as I’ve learned in the past month, there’s so much more to understand. It is quite easy to feel intimidated when attempting to learn all there is about DNS. The truth is, I won’t be able to learn everything. But I am certainly chipping away at it. Like I’ve said, this is a fascinating topic that affects almost every aspect of our everyday lives. With such wide-reaching implications, wouldn’t you want to know what DNS is too?

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Jadecy Kidane is the Marketing Content Manager at BlueCat.

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