"Soliton" domains in the IP Register database

The current guidelines for how domains are assigned to mzones is documented in our notes on administrative metadata in the IP Register database

We propose to simplify the way we handle cam.ac.uk domains that don't have technical support outside the UIS.

The IP Register database doesn't have a straightforward or consistent way to represent such domains. They fall into several categories:

  • domains in the SOLITON mzone, which was created for this purpose

  • UAS-related domains which are in the ADMIN mzone because management was delegated to MISD

  • domains in soliton-like mzones, such as STRATEGIC-NETWORK and COURSES

  • categorized domains under GROUP and FUND (though awkwardly most fund domains aren't subdomains of fund.cam.ac.uk)

  • small institution domains, such as the Faculty of Biology

This could be a lot less complicated and confusing!

Practical problems

This mess is mostly benign, though there is one case where it can causes problems. We have a few systems that assume an IP Register mzone contact address will reach suitable technical staff. (Mainly Friendly Probing and the MWS.) So the last case in the list above - mzones with only a web site and no technical staff - is troublesome, because the mzone technical contact address goes to a non-technical person.

Suggested change

We propose to move all these domains into the SOLITON mzone and abolish any mzones left empty, except for:

  • FUND domains, mainly as a reminder that the fund.cam.ac.uk sub-domain exists in case any new domains are created

  • group.cam.ac.uk sub-domains

  • admin.cam.ac.uk sub-domains will remain in the ADMIN mzone

  • awkward cases discussed below

The technical contact for the SOLITON mzone is the hostmaster team.

A typical soliton domain

A soliton domain usually has a web site CNAME pointing at a UIS web server - the MWS, or the Drupal service behind the web Traffic Managers. This CNAME crosses between the SOLITON mzone and the UIS-MWS or UIS-TM mzones.

Cross-mzone CNAMEs normally require special privileges. The (not-just-) MWS3 API provides that privilege to UIS teams that need it (including HPC and Drupal as well as MWS).

Awkward cases

There are a number of web-only domains in the ADMIN mzone that have web sites configured with A records pointing directly at the Traffic Managers. If they are moved to the SOLITON mzone now, the hostmaster team will need to help with any changes. If they are left in the ADMIN mzone then (because the relevant people have ex-MISD access rights) the infrastructure team can independently move them from the old admin.cam.ac.uk Traffic Manager setup to the new tm.uis.cam.ac.uk setup. After that, they will be enough like other SOLITON domains that it makes sense to move them over.

Owners and contacts

For administrative purposes, we use the IP Register description and remarks fields to hold ownership and contact information for soliton domains. At best, these contact addresses in the IP Register database list the relevant people at the time of the last change to the domain, which is typically a few years ago.

This contact info is often wrong, but it is not used by automated systems. It is useful to UIS staff as a hint for where to find the current people who should be responsible. We also use the domain's web site, Lookup, and the Relationship Managers as alternative sources of information. This seems to work OK in practice and does not require much effort with current levels of churn.