DNS Servers

DNS servers store information about no zones, one zone, or multiple zones. When a DNS server receives a DNS query, it attempts to locate the requested information by retrieving data from its local zones. If this fails because the server is not authoritative for the DNS domain requested and thus does not have the data for the requested domain, the server can check its cache, communicate with other DNS servers to resolve the request, or refer the client to another DNS server that might know the answer.

DNS servers can host primary and secondary zones. You can configure servers to host as many different primary or secondary zones as is practical, which means that a server might host the primary copy of one zone and the secondary copy of another zone, or it might host only the primary or only the secondary copy for a zone. For each zone, the server that hosts the primary zones is considered the primary server for that zone, and the server that hosts the secondary zones is considered the secondary server for that zone.

Primary zones are locally updated. When a change is made to the zone data, such as delegating a portion of the zone to another DNS server or adding resource records in the zone, these changes must be made on the primary DNS server for that zone, so that the new information can be entered in the local zone.

In contrast, secondary zones are replicated from another server. When a zone is defined on a secondary server for that zone, the zone is configured with the IP address of the server from which the zone is to be replicated. The server from which the zone file replicates can either be a primary or secondary server for the zone, and is sometimes called a master server for the secondary zone.

When a secondary server for the zone starts up, it contacts the master server for the zone and initiates a zone transfer. The secondary server for the zone also periodically contacts the master server for the zone to see whether the zone data has changed. If so, it can initiate a transfer of the zones, referred to as a zone transfer . For more information about zone transfers, see "Zone Transfer" later in this chapter.

You must have a primary server for each zone. Additionally, you should have at least one secondary server for each zone. Otherwise, if the primary server for the zone goes down, no one will be able to resolve the names in that zone.

Secondary servers provide the following benefits:

Fault tolerance    When a secondary server is configured for a zone, clients can still resolve names for that zone even if the primary server for the zone goes down. Generally, plan to install the primary and secondary servers for the zone on different subnets. Therefore, if connectivity to one subnet is lost, DNS clients can still direct queries to the name server on the other subnet.

Reduction of traffic on wide area links    You can add a secondary server for the zone in a remote location that has a large number of clients, and then configure the client to try those servers first. This can prevent clients from communicating across slow links for DNS queries.

Reduction of load on the primary server for the zone    The secondary server can answer queries for the zone, reducing the number of queries the primary server for the zone must answer.

The following sections describe servers that act as caching-only servers, forwarders, and slaves.