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Operational Criteria for Root Name Servers

The information below is for an old version of the document that is already published as an RFC.
Document Type
This is an older version of an Internet-Draft that was ultimately published as RFC 2010.
Authors Paul A. Vixie , Bill Manning
Last updated 2013-03-02 (Latest revision 1996-06-12)
RFC stream Legacy stream
Stream Legacy state (None)
Consensus boilerplate Unknown
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IESG IESG state RFC 2010 (Informational)
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Operational Requirements Area                        Bill Manning (ISI)
   INTERNET-DRAFT                                         Paul Vixie (ISC)
   Expires December 1996                                         June 1996

             Operational Criteria for Root Name Servers

   Status of this Memo

      This document is an Internet-Draft.  Internet-Drafts are working
      documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), its areas,
      and its working groups.  Note that other groups may also distribute
      working documents as Internet-Drafts.

      Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
      and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
      time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
      material or to cite them other than as ``work in progress.''

      To learn the current status of any Internet-Draft, please check the
      ``1id-abstracts.txt'' listing contained in the Internet-Drafts Shadow
      Directories on (Africa), (Europe), (Pacific Rim), (US East Coast), or (US West Coast).


      This document specifies the operational requirements of root name
      servers, including host hardware capacities, name server software
      revisions, network connectivity, and physical environment.

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   1 - Rationale and Scope

   1.1. Historically, the name servers responsible for the root (``.'')
   zone have also been responsible for all international top-level domains
   (iTLD's, for example: COM, EDU, INT, ARPA).  These name servers have
   been operated by a cadre of highly capable volunteers, and their
   administration has been loosely coordinated by the NIC (first SRI-NIC
   and now InterNIC).  Ultimate responsibility for the correct operation of
   these servers and for the content of the DNS zones they served has
   always rested with the IANA.

   1.2. As described in [Postel96], many new TLD's may be created
   shortly.  Servers for all new and existing iTLD's will be subject to the
   operational requirements given in [Postel96].  The set of servers for
   the root (``.'')  zone is likely to become disjoint from the set of
   servers for any TLD or group of TLD's, including those maintained by
   the InterNIC.

   1.3. In spite of the similarities in operational requirements between
   the servers for the iTLD's and the servers for the root (``.'') zone,
   they are in fact different server sets with different administrators and
   slightly different operational requirements. It is likely that many
   contry code tld servers will have even more divergent operational
   requirements. That said, the requirements set down in this document 
   could be successfully applied to any name server (whether root, top 
   level, or any other level), but may be more draconian than necessary 
   for servers other than those of the root (``.'') zone.

   Disclaimer:  The selection of name server locations and administrators,
                and the procedures for addressing noncompliance with these 
                stated operational requirements, are outside the scope of this

   Definition:  For the purpose of this document, the term ``zone master''
                shall be used to designate the administrative owner of the
                content of a zone.  This person is expected to have final
                responsibility for the selection and correct operation of
                all of the zone's servers.  For the root (``.'') zone, this
                is the IANA.

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   2 - Operational Requirements

   2.1. Name server software.  The zone master shall initially and
   periodically choose a name server package to run on all of the zone's
   servers.  It is expected that the BIND server will be used, at least
   initially, and that new versions or other servers will be specified from
   time to time.

      Rationale:  This requirement is based on the wide and free
                  availability of BIND's source code, and the active
                  analysis and development it constantly receives from
                  several members of the IETF.

   Name server software upgrades will be specified and scheduled by the
   zone master, and must occur on all of a zone's servers within a
   specified 96 hour window.

      Rationale:  In some cases it has proven necessary to ``cold start'' a
                  zone's servers in order to clear out oscillating bad
                  data.  By forcing all software upgrades to happen at
                  about the same time, it will be possible to coordinate a
                  software change with a zone content change.

   2.2. UDP checksums.  UDP checksums must be generated when sending
   datagrams, and verified when receiving them.

      Rationale:  Some vendors turn off UDP checksums for performance
                  reasons, citing the presence of MAC-level frame checks
                  (CRC, for example) as ``strong enough.''  This has been a
                  disaster in actual practice.

   2.3. Dedicated host.  A name server host should have no other function,
   and no login accounts other than for system or network administrators.
   No other network protocols should be served by a name server host (e.g.,
   SMTP, NNTP, FTP, et al).  If login is permitted from other than the
   system console, then the login service must be by encrypted channel
   (e.g., Kerberized and encrypted rlogin/telnet, the secure shell (SSH),
   or an equivilent).

      Rationale:  Each additional service performed by a host makes it less
                  reliable and potentially less secure, as well as
                  complicating fault isolation procedures.  While name
                  service does not consume very much in the way of system
                  resources, it is thought best that a host do a few things
                  well rather than many things poorly.

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   2.4. Clock synchronization.  A name server host should synchronize its
   clock using the NTP protocol (currnet version) with authentication.  At 
   least two NTP servers should be used.  As an exception to section 2.3 
   above, a name server host can be an NTP server as well.

      Rationale:  For distributed fault isolation reasons, synchronized
                  time stamps in system event logs are quite helpful.  NTP
                  is easily spoofed by UDP blast attacks, thus the
                  requirement for authentication between the name server
                  host and its NTP servers.  A name server host is allowed
                  to be an NTP server because it has been observed that a
                  single host running both name service and stratum 1 NTP
                  is still quite reliable and secure.

   2.5. Network interfaces.  Name servers must send UDP responses with an
   IP source address (and UDP source port number) equal to the IP
   destination address (and UDP destination port number) of the request.
   Also, a name server might have multiple real interfaces, but only one
   will be advertised in the zone's NS RRset and associated glue A RRs.
   The advertised address should be that of the ``best'' interface on the
   host, in terms of network performance and reliability to the largest
   number of destinations.

      Rationale:  While not required by [RFC1035], many extant DNS
                  implementations require the source address and port of a
                  reply to match the destination address and port to which
                  the request was sent.  The number of advertised addresses
                  is limited to one (1) so that DNS delegation responses
                  containing this name server can be as short as possible.

   2.6. Physical environment.  A name server host must be located in a
   secure space such as a locked computer room or a data center with
   restricted access.  The power supply should be redundant, using
   batteries, generators or some other means to protect against utility
   power failures.  Network connectivity should be redundant, so that a
   single wide area line failure cannot completely isolate the name server
   host from the rest of the network.

   2.7. Network security.  The system and network administrators should
   educate themselves about potential threats, and stay current on CERT
   bulletins regarding network breakins.  The system staff should
   periodically audit the name server host's activity logs and be able to
   detect breakins during or after the fact.

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   2.8. Host performance.  As of the time of this writing, a name server
   must be able to answer 1,200 UDP transactions per second with less than
   5 milliseconds of average latency.  Because the network is still growing
   at a high rate, the ability to grow to 2,000 transactions per second and
   still support a 5 millisecond latency is highly desirable.  Note that
   this requirement affects both the host and the network infrastructure to
   which that host is attached.

   2.9. Response time.  The administrators responsible for a name server
   will respond to e-mail trouble reports within 24 hours.  Personnel
   issues such as vacations and illness will cause responsibilities to be
   delegated and/or reassigned rather than ignored.  After hours telephone
   numbers must be made available to the zone master for nonpublished use
   in emergencies.  An escalation contact name, e-mail address, and
   telephone number will also be made available to the zone master in the
   event of nonresponse through the normal channel.

   2.10. Zone transfer access control.  The name server shall be configured
   so that outbound zone transfers are permitted only to destinations on
   the server's local networks, and to whichever networks the zone master
   designates for remote debugging purposes.

      Rationale:  Zone transfers can present a significant load on a name
                  server, especially if several transfers are started
                  simultaneously against the same server.  There is no
                  operational reason to allow anyone outside the name
                  server's and zone's administrators to transfer the entire

   2.11. Zone transfer protocol.  DNS AXFR shall be used in preference to
   FTP or any other non-DNS transfer protocol.  DNS NOTIFY (see [NOTIFY])
   and DNS IXFR (see [IXFR]) shall be supported and enabled when available.

      Rationale:  Historically, the common implementations of DNS (a.k.a.,
                  BIND) did not support zone transfer of the root (``.'')
                  zone due to programming errors.  Thus, FTP was used.  In
                  the future, DNS implementations which do not support zone
                  transfer of all zones will not be considered suitable for
                  use as root name servers.  The benefits of [IXFR] and 
                  [NOTIFY] should be obvious.

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   2.12. Recursion shall be disabled for queries.

      Rationale:  Recursion is a major source of cache pollution, and can
                  be a major drain on name server performance.  An
                  organization's recursive DNS needs should be served by
                  some other host than its root name server(s).  An
                  exception is made for missing glue since it's possible
                  that glue needed for some delegations will not be within
                  or beneath any zone for which the server is
                  authoritative.  Such glue must be fetched via recursive
                  lookups to other servers.

   2.13. Outages shall be reported.  All outages, scheduled or not, shall
   be reported to the zone master via e-mail.  If an outage is unscheduled
   or if an outage is scheduled less than 24 hours in advance, then an
   additional notification of the zone master shall be made via telephone.
   Extended or repeated outages may beget special handling by the zone

   2.14. Inverse name lookups.  The PTR RR associated with a server's
   primary interface address (that is, the address shown in in the zone's
   delegation) shall have its target specified by the zone master.

      Rationale:  Since each organization has local control of their
                  network's PTR RRs, and since it is necessary for the
                  correct operation of some software that the forward and
                  reverse lookups have symmetrical results, it is left up
                  to the zone master to select the name for each authority
                  server's primary address.

   3 - Possible Selection Criteria

   3.1. Host population.  A server's location on the network should be such
   that it has a low IP hop count to a high number of end hosts.
   Duplication of service should be avoided, such that any given set of end
   hosts needs to have a low IP hop count to at most one authority server
   for any given zone.

   3.2. Infrastructure diversity.  A server's location on the network
   should be such that most failures capable of isolating it from a large
   number of end hosts are diverse from the failures capable of similarly
   isolating other authority servers for the same zone(s).

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   4 - Security Considerations

   See section 2.7.               

   5 - References

      P. Mockapetris, ``Domain Names - Implementation and Specification,''
      RFC 1035, USC/Information Sciences Institute, November 1987.

      J. Postel, "New Registries and the Delegation of International Top
      Level Domains", <draft-postel-iana-itld-admin-00.txt>, May 3, 1996.

      M. Ohta, ``Incremental Zone Transfer,'' Internet Draft, February
      1996, <draft-ietf-dnsind-ixfr-06.txt>.

      P. Vixie, ``A Mechanism for Prompt Notification of Zone Changes,''
      Internet Draft, March 1996, <draft-ietf-dnsind-notify-07.txt>.

   6 - Acknowledgements

   Constructive comments have been received from:  Jon Postel, Michael
   Patton, Andrew Partan, Michael Dillon, Don Mitchell Steven Doyle, Owen
   DeLong and other members of the internet community.

   7 - Author's Address

        Bill Manning
           4676 Admiralty Way
           Marina del Rey, CA 90292
           +1 310 822 1511

        Paul Vixie
           Internet Software Consortium
           Star Route Box 159A
           Woodside, CA 94062
           +1 415 747 0204

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