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How DNS Works
Updated: March 28, 2003Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 withSP2
How DNS Works
In this section
 
y
 
DN
S Architecture 
y
 
DN
S Protocol 
y
 
DN
S Physical Structure 
y
 
DN
S Processes and Interactions 
y
 
N
etwork Ports Used By
DN
S 
y
 
Related Information 
D
omain
N
ame System (
DN
S) is the default name resolution service used in a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 network.
DN
S is part of the Windows Server 2003 TCP/IP protocol suite and all TCP/IP network connections are, by default,configured with the IP address of at least one
DN
S server in order to perform name resolution on the network. WindowsServer 2003 components that require name resolution will attempt to use this
DN
S server before attempting to use theprevious default Windows name resolution service, Windows Internet
N
ame Service (WI
N
S).Typically, Windows Server 2003
DN
S is deployed in support of Active
D
irectory directory service. In this environment,
DN
Snamespaces mirror the Active
D
irectory forests and domains used by an organization.
N
etwork hosts and services areconfigured with
DN
S names so that they can be located in the network, and they are also configured with
DN
S servers thatresolve the names of Active
D
irectory domain controllers.Windows Server 2003
DN
S is also commonly deployed as a non-Active
D
irectory, or standard,
D
omain
N
ame Systemsolution, for the purposes of hosting the Internet presence of an organization, for example.
DNS Architecture
DN
S architecture is a hierarchical distributed database and an associated set of protocols that define:
y
 
A mechanism for querying and updating the database.
y
 
A mechanism for replicating the information in the database among servers.
y
 
A schema of the database.
DN
S originated in the early days of the Internet when the Internet was a small network established by the United States
D
epartment of 
D
efense for research purposes. The host names of the computers in this network were managed throughthe use of a single HOSTS file located on a centrally administered server. Each site that needed to resolve host names onthe network downloaded this file. As the number of hosts on the Internet grew, the traffic generated by the update processincreased, as well as the size of the HOSTS file. The need for a new system, which would offer features such as scalability,decentralized administration, support for various data types, became more and more obvious.The
D
omain
N
ame System introduced in 1984 became this new system. With
DN
S, the host names reside in a databasethat can be distributed among multiple servers, decreasing the load on any one server and providing the ability toadminister this naming system on a per-partition basis.
DN
S supports hierarchical names and allows registration of variousdata types in addition to host name to IP address mapping used in HOSTS files. Because the
DN
S database is distributed,its potential size is unlimited and performance is not degraded when more servers are added.The original
DN
S was based on Request for Comment (RFC) 882 (³
D
omain
N
ames: Concepts and Facilities´) and RFC 883(
D
omain
N
ames±Implementation and Specification), which were superseded by RFC 1034 (³
D
omain
N
ames±Concepts and
 
Facilities´), and RFC 1035 (³
D
omain
N
ames±Implementation and Specification´). Additional RFCs that describe
DN
Ssecurity, implementation, and administrative issues later augmented the original design specifications.The implementation of 
DN
S ² Berkeley Internet
N
ame
D
omain (BI
ND
) ² was originally developed for the 4.3 BS
D
U
N
IXOperating System. The Microsoft implementation of 
DN
S became a part of the operating system in Microsoft Windows
N
TServer 4.0. The Windows
N
T 4.0
DN
S server, like most
DN
S implementations, has its roots in RFCs 1034 and 1035.The RFCs used in Microsoft Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003 operating systems are 1034, 1035, 1886, 1996,1995, 2136, 2308, and 2052.
DNS Domain Names
The
D
omain
N
ame System is implemented as a hierarchical and distributed database containing various types of data,including host names and domain names. The names in a
DN
S database form a hierarchical tree structure called thedomain namespace.
D
omain names consist of individual labels separated by dots, for example: mydomain.microsoft.com.A Fully Qualified
D
omain
N
ame (FQ
DN
) uniquely identifies the hosts position within the
DN
S hierarchical tree by specifyinga list of names separated by dots in the path from the referenced host to the root. The next figure shows an example of a
DN
S tree with a host called mydomain within the microsoft.com. domain. The FQ
DN
for the host would bemydomain.microsoft.com
.
 
U
nderstanding the DNS Domain Namespace
The
DN
S domain namespace, as shown in the following figure, is based on the concept of a tree of named domains. Eachlevel of the tree can represent either a branch or a leaf of the tree. A branch is a level where more than one name is usedto identify a collection of named resources. A leaf represents a single name used once at that level to indicate a specificresource.
DNS Domain Name Hierarchy
 The previous figure shows how Microsoft is assigned authority by the Internet root servers for its own part of the
DN
Sdomain namespace tree on the Internet.
DN
S clients and servers use queries as the fundamental method of resolvingnames in the tree to specific types of resource information. This information is provided by
DN
S servers in query responsesto
DN
S clients, who then extract the information and pass it to a requesting program for resolving the queried name. Inthe process of resolving a name, keep in mind that
DN
S servers often function as
DN
S clients, querying other servers inorder to fully resolve a queried name.
How the DNS Domain Namespace Is Organized
Any
DN
S domain name used in the tree is technically a domain. Most
DN
S discussions, however, identify names in one of five ways, based on the level and the way a name is commonly used. For example, the
DN
S domain name registered toMicrosoft (microsoft.com.) is known as a second-level domain. This is because the name has two parts (known as labels)
 
that indicate it is located two levels below the root or top of the tree. Most
DN
S domain names have two or more labels,each of which indicates a new level in the tree. Periods are used in names to separate labels.The five categories used to describe
DN
S domain names by their function in the namespace are described in the followingtable, along with an example of each name type.
T
ypes of DNS Domain Names
 
Name
T
ype Description Example
RootdomainThis is the top of the tree, representing an unnamed level; itis sometimes shown as two empty quotation marks (""),indicating a null value. When used in a
DN
S domain name, itis stated by a trailing period (.) to designate that the name islocated at the root or highest level of the domain hierarchy.In this instance, the
DN
S domain name is considered to becomplete and points to an exact location in the tree of names.
N
ames stated this way are called fully qualifieddomain names (FQ
DN
s).A single period (.) or a period used atthe end of a name, such as ³example.microsoft.com.´ Top leveldomainA name used to indicate a country/region or the type of organization using a name. ³³.com´, which indicates a nameregistered to a business forcommercial use on the Internet.SecondleveldomainVariable-length names registered to an individual ororganization for use on the Internet. These names are alwaysbased upon an appropriate top-level domain, depending onthe type of organization or geographic location where a nameis used. ³³microsoft.com. ´, which is thesecond-level domain name registeredto Microsoft by the Internet
DN
Sdomain name registrar.Subdomain Additional names that an organization can create that arederived from the registered second-level domain name.These include names added to grow the
DN
S tree of namesin an organization and divide it into departments orgeographic locations. ³³example.microsoft.com. ´, which is afictitious subdomain assigned byMicrosoft for use in documentationexample names.Host orresourcename
N
ames that represent a leaf in the
DN
S tree of names andidentify a specific resource. Typically, the leftmost label of a
DN
S domain name identifies a specific computer on thenetwork. For example, if a name at this level is used in a host(A) RR, it is used to look up the IP address of computerbased on its host name. ³³host-a.example.microsoft.com.´,where the first label (³host-a´) is the
DN
S host name for a specific computeron the network.
DNS and Internet Domains
The Internet
D
omain
N
ame System is managed by a
N
ame Registration Authority on the Internet, responsible formaintaining top-level domains that are assigned by organization and by country/region. These domain names follow theInternational Standard 3166. Some of the many existing abbreviations, reserved for use by organizations, as well as two-letter and three-letter abbreviations used for countries/regions are shown in the following table:
Some DNS
T
op-level Domain Names (
TL
Ds)
 
DNS Domain Name
T
ype of Organization
com Commercial organizationsedu Educational institutionsorg
N
on-profit organizationsnet
N
etworks (the backbone of the Internet)gov
N
on-military government organizationsmil Military government organizationsarpa Reverse
DN
S ³xx´ Two-letter country code (i.e. us, au, ca, fr)

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