This modular approach will be handy in a number of ways, Kerr said. It will make it easier for outside developers to contribute, because they won't have to understand the entire operation to contribute one particular feature. The modular approach will allow different parties to develop specific functions as optional modules that might not be needed by all users. It will also make it easier to run the software on multicore processors, with different services running on different cores.
Finally, the new architecture should make the software more reliable, Kerr said. BIND 9 has gotten a fair amount of criticism for the way it handles bugs. "We expect [the new approach] to be a lot more resilient with coding bugs, which has been the source of most of the security problems with BIND 9," Kerr said.
BIND 9 was engineered so that when its operations were disrupted by a bug, it would immediately shut down. Though a safe move, this approach, as it turned out, not a very practical one for mission-critical operations. "It was quite frustrating for administrators," he said. Kerr offered an example: In BIND 9, "there was a bug in our Dynamic DNS code, and it would end up being a security issue, because it would cause the server to crash, even if you were not using Dynamic DNS," Kerr said.
With the new design, if a bug mucks up operations, only the particular service with the bug will cease operating. So if you were not running Dynamic DNS, you would not be vulnerable to that exploit, and if you were running Dynamic DNS, the bug would only affect that service. Also, the new version can automatically restart services that crash.
ISC has not worked out all of the details of how it will handle outside contributions, Kerr said. The development and maintenance has been transparent thus far. The code is freely available as a download and anyone can join the developer mailing list. Going forward, the ISC would like to retain control of the overall direction in which the software is developed, to keep the development in line with serving the wide ranging needs of the Internet. But ISC has not yet specified a governance process to guide which features developed by others get added. "It's still new to us," Kerr said.