This question about DNS architecture raises the question, are the commonly referred to "network services" (DNS, NTP, Directory Services, etc), on-topic?

The name "network services" itself is slightly misleading in my view, and the questions would be more likely to receive a better answer over on ServerFault where you would encounter more "Sysadmin" types who manage these services.

I believe some of the confusion may come from the fact that many IT shops seem to come in one of two sizes:

  1. Small enough that one person/group of people manage the actual network infrastructure (routers, switches, firewalls) and manage the server side (AD, DNS, Patching).
  2. Large enough that the network staff don't play in the server staff's sandbox, and the aforementioned "network services" are outside of Network Engineering's control.

(If this would be better suited as an answer under the "What's ON-TOPIC" question, I can move it there.)

  • Your first link is down.....
    – Pacerier
    May 22, 2014 at 21:36

3 Answers 3


In my opinion the only real on topic questions on services like DNS would be related to implementing high availability using techniques like BGP anycast and questions related to preventing abuse of these services by implementing techniques like BCP38.


Your #2 above isn't quite accurate.

I know of a good many larger shops where DNS/DHCP (as well as RADIUS, etc) fall within the network staff as they are the ones that decide on IP allocation and use or use features of DNS/DHCP to manage their devices.

I also know a good many larger shops where this is a shared responsibility. For example I was just in one place where the RADIUS servers (Windows NPS) were installed and managed by the systems group at the OS level, but the network group was responsible for configuring/troubleshooting the RADIUS service and monitoring/interpreting the logs.

As an answer, I think these are some of those topics where the two sites definitely overlap in their "expertise" and as such I think these questions could find their home in either place. However, since SF is more established with more users, for now they will probably get more and/or faster answers on SF.

  • Very true! I was over generalizing above in #2 for the sake of trying to make this a little more cut and dried. But, like almost anything in our field now (::cough Virtualization cough::), there is a large of grey area that each organization seems to be trying to solve differently. :) Sep 26, 2013 at 0:26
  • The problem is that the area of network and systems engineering is becoming increasingly blurred. As we have system level network such as is done with things like vSphere, VXLAN, Open VSwitch, etc. more shops are migrating systems engineers into network and networking engineers into systems roles. I attended a conference last week among large scale providers and the consensus was that that differentiation is starting to blur.
    – GeorgeB
    Jun 17, 2015 at 2:52
  • There has always been overlap in the two fields, and management always likes to "blur" this as much as possible. However, I would argue that in many respects the two fields continue to diverge as evidenced by the wider level of training/certification required to perform each role in a highly knowledgeable manner. As a concrete example, there are now 6 different CCIE tracks from Cisco. For systems, it often requires a combination of OS, storage, and virtualization certifications to be considered on top of the game. SDN/ONIE/etc are good, but still require experts to deploy/manage properly.
    – YLearn
    Jun 17, 2015 at 3:08

Summary: I see a strong case for saying generic DNS questions are off topic

Details: I can see YLearn's point about DNS skillset overlap between system admins and network engineers; however, DNS Servers are normally hosted on servers instead of shrink-wrapped appliances, such as a router. As such, most DNS expertise lies with systems administrators. In those cases where a network engineer has DNS domain expertise, he normally got it because he administered a Unix / Linux / Windows DNS system. Therefore, I recommend we always send generic DNS questions to Server Fault, where they also happen to have some recognized DNS experts.

Side Note: I have no problems with NE answering questions about DNS servers running on Cisco IOS; however, that is hardly justification to classify generic DNS questions as appropriate for NE... using this same logic, we could likewise say that TCL questions are welcome on NE...

  • I agree SF is a better spot for these questions (for now), and some of these questions that would be out of scope here. However I also have to point out that DNS is not a server but a service, even if often a server is dedicated to the role. Many IPAM solutions include DNS/DHCP, because they are closely intertwined with IP management and planning; decisions which should be made by network professions, not systems (IMHO). Finally, as for "appliances," I can name four off the top of my head (Infoblox, BT Diamond, Bluecat and Men & Mice) which minimize the need for the server management aspect.
    – YLearn
    Sep 26, 2013 at 3:57
  • @YLearn, we agree DNS is a service; however, Q: what do most people ask for when they refer to DNS? A: The IP address of the DNS Server. I am aware of the appliances, which is why I said "normally hosted". DNS appliances are late-comers to this game, perhaps we both would agree that bind is as old as IP itself... in my experience, no less than 7 out of 10 companies still run DNS on Windows or Unix. BTW, technically Infoblox, BT Diamond and Bluecat are IPAM Solutions, which offer DNS as a benefit of their IPAM solution. Sep 26, 2013 at 8:50
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    @MikePennington perhaps you could make the answer a clear "it is off topic" answer... then it would be clearly off topic if your A gets up votes. (??) Sep 26, 2013 at 12:08
  • @MikePennington, with regards to your Q, do you really want to go down the road of accepting what "most people" think or do? I think you would agree that "most people" don't really understand networks, just as I agree on a number of your points (both here and in other posts). As for the IPAM thing (which actually applies to all four), the vendors would not say that it is a benefit of their solution but that IPAM/DNS/DHCP are inherently linked and should be managed together. Final humor note: just noticed your DNS expert describes himself as a "networking ... specialist" in his profile.
    – YLearn
    Sep 27, 2013 at 0:37
  • @YLearn, I want to go down the road that A) makes sense and B) gets the right answers for people. That happens to be sending DNS to Server Fault. I don't know how we wound up in violent agreement, but last time I checked we both wanted to send DNS questions to Server Fault. Regarding Alnitak's profile, his description highlights "DNS standards"... furthermore, look where his votes come from... over 850 are from DNS alone... less than 200 in the networking tag... thus, if that's your attempt at humor, then perhaps you could help us understand where the joke is :-) Sep 27, 2013 at 0:45
  • @MikePennington, agreed (at least for now) and leaving off on this. To try to clarify the profile comment (since I was running out of characters in the last comment), in Alnitak's profile he describes himself as a "Networking and standardisation specialist, currently focused on DNS and telecoms standards." Sounds like someone who considers themselves more of a network professional than a server professional (ignoring the overlap of the two professions) and perhaps this may be a better home for him than SF? <g>
    – YLearn
    Sep 27, 2013 at 4:37
  • @YLearn, is it possible you're forming the wrong conclusion from the evidence? Sep 27, 2013 at 6:41
  • @MikePennington, always a possibility, and on many days feels more like a good probability. But you are trying to drag me back into the discussion...
    – YLearn
    Sep 27, 2013 at 7:03
  • In every enterprise I've worked in, DNS/DHCP/IPAM has been a network service, architected by network engineers, simply because those services are coupled to the network design. If the question is about the architecture of these services, it falls under NE. If it is application/OS/platform specific, SF.
    – Santino
    Sep 27, 2013 at 13:18
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    @santino, that misses the point. DNS runs on windows / unix. Our network engineers likewise manage our DNS records / addressing mgmt; however, the DNS service is maintained by systems engineers, including replication / zone xfers / master / slaves. As long as the service runs on a windows or unix machine, SF is the right place. Sep 27, 2013 at 13:57
  • @MikePennington, was trying to disengage, but have to contest the "as long as the service runs on a windows or unix machine, SF is the right place" statement. This would exclude a number of router platforms, most load balancers, some versions of ASA, many firewall platforms, wireless controllers...shall I go on listing devices that this statement would make off topic here? Being "jailshelled" into their interface doesn't make it any less true. Just because something runs on a server doesn't make it a server issue.
    – YLearn
    Oct 11, 2013 at 2:49
  • When I say "machine", I mean "not a packaged appliance". Perhaps that clarifies. You seem to be using a different definition of machine than I am in several parts your argument. Oct 11, 2013 at 10:10
  • @MikePennington, I think you are missing my point that we should care about the service and not the "machine" or platform. Your clarified definition would still rule out many network products, to start with Cisco WCS or LMS and many others. That is leaving out whether you consider a "Virtual Appliance" running on ESXi a "packaged appliance" or not (which I would tend to consider to be the case). In my mind whether the base OS is off limits because the vendor has provided a limited shell or because it is the responsibility of a sys admin, makes little difference to the use of the service.
    – YLearn
    Oct 16, 2013 at 19:39
  • @YLearn, that has already been discussed and clarified... please see this chat and the messages that follow... You could also try chatting with me directly... I have sent a couple of invitations so far with no response Oct 16, 2013 at 23:34
  • @MikePennington, that does clarify your position, however that doesn't mean that there isn't room to discuss on meta as well (especially since the community didn't know of that discussion generally without the above link). I only got one chat invite, and when I tried to follow that link it gave me a not found error. I just tried again and seems to be working now.
    – YLearn
    Oct 22, 2013 at 5:23

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