Dragone explored several alternatives, including DNS software from Novell, Microsoft and Men & Mice. But eventually she zeroed in on appliances, and ended up testing devices from BlueCat and Infoblox.
Boise State bought two BlueCat Adonis 1000 appliances, which are set up to be redundant to each other. The retail cost of the two appliances was $26,000.
"It came down to cost," Dragone says. "Plus, there were a couple things in the [interface] of the management system that I liked better, but they were very small."
Dragone said installation of the Adonis 1000s was easy.
"I spent a few weeks on my own learning the interfaces on the Adonis system, the GUI interface and the command-line interface, until I had a good comfort level. Then I did a testbed of two small buildings…to roll them onto the system for DNS and DHCP so we could test our Active Directory integration and our VoIP to make sure we had no issues," she explains.
Dragone said it took three weeks to migrate the entire campus network to the DNS and DHCP services from the BlueCat appliances.
"We had no helpdesk calls as a result of the conversion," she says. "People didn't really know it happened."
Dragone's favorite features of the Adonis system are the search capabilities and the instantaneous replication between the master and slave systems. She says she can patch the appliances in the middle of the work day, rather than scheduling off-hours maintenance.
Boise State hasn't experienced any outages or other significant problems with the BlueCat appliances.
"I have no complaints whatsoever," Dragone says. "I like all the reports that you can look at. The other thing I really like is the tool for checking your DNS database before you deploy your configuration. That has really come in handy."
Operating modern appliances is a lot easier than keeping aging software running, Dragone says.
"There are savings headache wise," Dragone says. "I spent an entire week in December trying to figure something out that never got resolved. There were a lot of band-aid fixes on the old system to the point where we were shuffling around where the DHCP was coming from."
Cisco declined to comment for this article.
Branko Miskov, director of product management at BlueCat Networks, says more universities like Boise State are migrating to appliances for DNS and DHCP services. Among BlueCat's higher ed customers are UC Berkeley, UCLA, the University of Michigan and the University of Calgary. This segment now represents more than 10% of BlueCat's sales.