IP Services on NT Made Easy

Hands On

Meta IP 4.1 is the latest iteration in a long line of DNS and IP management tools from a company originally known as MetaInfo Inc. Now called the Meta IP Group, the company was bought by Check Point Software Technologies Inc. about one year ago.

While still MetaInfo, the company was the first to come out with a reliable DNS product for Windows NT, but was forced to retool when Microsoft included viable DNS and DHCP servers in Windows NT 4.0. This effort has produced a state-of-the-art, centralized and automated IP address management solution.

Each computer, or device, on a TCP/IP network requires an IP address and name. As more devices are added to networks, the old manual process of assignment and tracking of addresses and associated names is becoming an administrative nightmare. Meta IP’s solution is Integrated IP Address management.

What keeps Meta IP successful in the marketplace is MetaInfo’s ability to see what is missing in Windows NT and taking advantage of that vacuum. Meta IP can control IP services running on other servers including Unix, Novell and Windows NT. It even has a password-protected Web interface for remote administration. These are all features that are not available in Windows NT 4.0.

Meta IP also includes LDAP and RADIUS (Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service) support that make Meta IP more than a just a DHCP and DNS server: It's a full IP-management package. Also included is support for the future Microsoft Active Directory Services.

Meta IP’s implementation of DHCP works closely with the Meta IP DNS server to provide dynamic updating of the DNS name resolution zone tables. Meta IP's database redundancy provides fault tolerance and performance gains using more multiple servers to deliver client IP addresses.

Meta DNS is a direct port of BIND 8.1.2, the Internet Software Consortium’s reference implementation of the Domain Name System. It supports secure DNS extensions and Dynamic DNS updates, improving security and enabling full integration into a comprehensive IP Infrastructure Management System.

Because of its adherence to standards, Meta DNS is able to interoperate in a heterogeneous environment with other standards-based DNS services, giving network administrators a high level of flexibility in how they deploy IP address management solutions. In conjunction with Meta IP’s Service Manager Clients (SMCs), this standards-based approach allows administrators to bring an enterprise’s entire name space under one central management interface.

We installed Meta IP 4.1 on a 266-MHz Intel server with 128 MB of RAM, running Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 4 (SP4). The install took only a few minutes and was flawless. We were impressed with the wizards that enabled us to convert our Microsoft DNS information into Meta IP DNS quickly and easily. From there we were able to convert our DHCP information and were completely up and running on Meta IP for our test network within an hour.

Meta IP tied all of our TCP/IP address maintenance together into one nice neat package. The Microsoft DNS is sufficient for small domains consisting of simply a primary and secondary DNS but becomes cumbersome when used in an enterprise, multisubnetted TCP/IP network. Where the Microsoft DNS falls down is where the Meta IP DNS begins to shine.

We mimicked an enterprise-style wide-area network in our testing to see how this would work with Meta IP. Using two routers and a number of Windows NT workstations, we put Meta IP to the test to see what it could do. We were impressed. Using a single Meta IP server allowed us to manage both the local LAN and all other subnets from one workstation. All the workstations were able to get their IP addresses from the Meta IP DHCP server and were properly updated in the Meta IP DNS.

Products such as these are not for the uninitiated. Anyone setting up a DNS with any product should exercise caution and have a good understanding on the working of DNS and DHCP. Meta IP, as friendly as it is, is no exception.

Meta IP is compliant with all of the following RFCs:

RFC 974 - Mail Routing and Domain System
RFC 1034 - Domain Names - Concepts and Facilities
RFC 1035 - Domain Names - Implementation and Specifications
RFC 1183 - New DNS RR Definitions
RFC 1884 - IP version 6 Addressing Architecture
RFC 1886 - DNS Extensions to Support IP Version 6
RFC 1996 - A Mechanism for Prompt Notification of Zone Changes (DNS Notify)
RFC 2052 - A DNS RR for Specifying the Location of Services (DNS SRV)
RFC 2065 - Domain Name System Security Extensions
RFC 2136 - Dynamic Updates in the Domain Name Systems (DNS Update)
RFC 2137 - Secure Domain Name System Dynamic Update

SP2 Extends Meta IP 4.1

As of press time, Meta IP Group is expected to release Service Pack 2 for Meta IP 4.1. The service pack will include three new modules, which include Meta IP Services for Unix, Meta IP Connector for Tivoli, and the Meta IP User Authentication Trap (UAT) for Novell NetWare.

The Meta IP Services for Unix will offer the ability to run DNS and DHCP services aboard Unix platforms. The Meta IP Connector for Tivoli will enable Tivoli users to launch and manage IP addresses and name space from within the Tivoli environment. The Meta IP UAT for Novell NetWare will enable large environments to capture authentication information from users logging into NetWare environments.

Meta IP 4.1 Enterprise Edition
Check Point Software Technologies Inc. - The Meta IP Group
Seattle, Wash.
(888) 638-2463

+ Complete Domain Name & IP Address Management
+ Wizards easily covert Microsoft DNS information
+ Can manage heterogeneous networks

- Not for the uninitiated.
- Unnecessary for simple networks.
- Costly for large networks.

Price: Meta IP 4.1 is available in both Standard and Enterprise Editions. Enterprise Edition starts at $9,995 with 1,000 nodes. Additional nodes are available on a per-node basis. Meta IP 4.1 Standard Edition, which includes the UAM technology and two DNS and two DHCP services, is $445 for a 100-node license.