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Networking completes Infoblox project

During summer 2018, the Networking unit within ITS Communication Technologies educated campus groups about the new Infoblox tool for managing IP addresses, the Domain Name System (DNS) and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP). Networking also helped campus groups integrate the tool with their systems.

This work wrapped up a multi-year project to search for, deploy and help the campus adopt a new tool for DNS, DHCP and IP address management.

Will Whitaker
Will Whitaker

Centralized management platform

Infoblox is the market-share leader in DNS, DHCP and IP address management. Its grid system provides a centralized management platform for services and data hosted on multiple physical or virtual appliances.

ITS has used in-house applications to run its DNS and IP address-management system since the service began. Hiawatha Demby, Network DDI Engineer, and Will Whitaker, DDI Architect, are the service owners.

Networking purchased Infoblox in December 2017 after beginning its search in March 2017. In January 2018, Networking deployed the new solution. Then in May 2018, ITS was able to migrate data directly from the existing Linux DNS/DHCP servers into the new Infoblox appliances with minimal modification. The following month ITS migrated the phone system associated VoIP data as well.

Collaborative effort

ITS Systems was significantly involved in this project as well since all Infoblox devices were deployed as virtual machines in UCS or standalone ESXi servers. Various other campus groups offered data and adjusted configurations to facilitate early testing.

Hiawatha Demby
Hiawatha Demby

The Infoblox solution was implemented to improve and modernize the University’s DNS and DHCP infrastructure. Networking needed a database approach to improve the IP address management (IPAM) workflow and data accessibility.

“Prior attempts had focused on open source options, but were ultimately lacking to fulfill our needs,” Whitaker said. “We began looking at the leading commercial products and vendors. Infoblox was ultimately chosen as the best ‘off-the-shelf’ solution after working with the various vendors, collecting feedback and recommendations from other higher education institutions and executing a set of proof-of-concept trials on campus.”

With Infoblox, the University benefits from a highly redundant and centralized management tool. To quote retired Assistant Vice Chancellor Jim Gogan, “This project represents the first significant change that ITS has made to the DNS architecture in 20 years.”

Provides campus with reliable platform

“Since DNS and DHCP are so ubiquitous to life in this highly connected age, they are rarely seen,” Whitaker said. “However, everyone finds out quickly when service is interrupted, so Infoblox provides a reliable and stable platform to campus. The tool itself includes new security features such as DNSSEC, which validate the authenticity of DNS responses from the internet. Local campus administrators see additional value in being able to access and optionally maintain their own vlans, networks and DNS/DHCP data.”

Through the deployment process, the majority of campus remained unaware of the change since normal service was not interrupted.

Replaces in-house tool

The new tool is working out well, Demby said. Infoblox has required some adjustments to workflow, but overall it’s a more efficient experience. Infoblox provides many more features than that of ITS’s previous in-house DNS solution.

Campus customers have spoken positively about the platform and are looking for new ways to leverage the data it contains in various application flows.

“Infoblox enforces validation on various change sources and has provided a better centralized view of how we operate and manage our IP address space,” Whitaker said. “A number of groups embraced the feature of managing their own DNS data through delegated administrative access to do their own changes and updates. A few groups were also able to decommission their DNS and/or DHCP servers to leverage the Infoblox centralized management.”

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