17.1.1. Nameserver Zones

17.1.1. Nameserver Zones

On the Internet, the FQDN of a host can be broken down into different sections. These sections are organized into a hierarchy (much like a tree), with a main trunk, primary branches, secondary branches, and so forth. Consider the following FQDN:


When looking at how an FQDN is resolved to find the IP address that relates to a particular system, read the name from right to left, with each level of the hierarchy divided by periods (.). In this example, com defines the top level domain for this FQDN. The name example is a sub-domain under com, while sales is a sub-domain under example. The name furthest to the left, bob, identifies a specific machine hostname.

Except for the hostname, each section is called a zone, which defines a specific namespace. A namespace controls the naming of the sub-domains to its left. While this example only contains two sub-domains, an FQDN must contain at least one sub-domain but may include many more, depending upon how the namespace is organized.

Zones are defined on authoritative nameservers through the use of zone files (which describe the namespace of that zone), the mail servers to be used for a particular domain or sub-domain, and more. Zone files are stored on primary nameservers (also called master nameservers), which are truly authoritative and where changes are made to the files, and secondary nameservers (also called slave nameservers), which receive their zone files from the primary nameservers. Any nameserver can be a primary and secondary nameserver for different zones at the same time, and they may also be considered authoritative for multiple zones. It all depends on how the nameserver is configured.

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