In my last column, I wrote about name resolution in Windows 2000 and concluded that most networks will have to support both DNS and WINS for the foreseeable future. This conclusion is disappointing to those of us who were looking forward to doing away with WINS, but the good news is that Microsoft has made several enhancements to WINS since Windows NT 4.0's release. Some of these enhancements are available in NT 4.0 with updates and modifications; some are completely new features of the Win2K WINS service.
Win2K's WINS service includes several updates that aid troubleshooting and increase reliability. Some of these features—burst handling, database consistency checking, record blocking, and automatic partner configuration—are available in NT 4.0, but you might have overlooked them because their implementation requires that you apply a service pack, modify the registry, or both. For example, you can add burst handling to WINS if you apply NT 4.0 Service Pack 4.0 (SP4) and modify the registry. When you enable burst handling, a WINS server is better able to handle client-registration surges, which might occur on a Monday morning when your company's entire workforce boots up its computers at the same time. The WINS server responds to client name-resolution requests immediately, without writing the registration to the WINS database. The response to the client has a short life, so the client must reregister when the load is lighter and the WINS server can take the time to write to the database.
WINS database consistency checking lets a WINS server check the entries in its local database against corresponding entries in its replication partners' databases to verify that no differences exist. Database consistency checking can be a network-intensive procedure, so you should consider scheduling it to occur during off-peak hours.
The block records feature lets you prevent records that originated from a WINS server that's no longer in service from replicating to remaining WINS servers. This feature is especially important if you're managing entries that you have entered manually; otherwise, those entries will replicate indefinitely until you delete them manually.
NT 4.0's auto discovery of replication partners is known as automatic partner configuration in Win2K. When you enable automatic partner configuration, your WINS servers use IP multicast to identify other WINS servers on the network and configure them to act as push/pull replication partners.
You can configure all these features directly from the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) WINS snap-in. To configure database consistency checking or burst handling, right-click the server_name and choose Properties. To configure automatic partner configuration, right-click the Replication Partners folder and choose Properties.
New in Win2K WINS
Several new WINS features aren't available in NT 4.0, even if you apply the latest service pack or make registry modifications. These features include tombstoning, persistent connections, and database export. Tombstoning is similar to deleting, except that when you tombstone a record entry, you inform other WINS servers that you're removing the entry so that those servers can update their databases. To use tombstoning, right-click a record, chose Delete, and then choose Tombstone.
Win2K also lets you enable persistent connections between replication partners instead of having to establish a new TCP session for each replication cycle. You can configure persistent connections from the MMC WINS snap-in's Replication Partner folder. Finally, you can right-click server_name in the WINS MMC snap-in and choose Export to dump the WINS database to a comma-delimited text file. You can then import that information into a spreadsheet or a reporting tool, or use it with custom scripts.
DNS might be the name resolution service of choice for future Microsoft OSs, but that hasn't stopped the company from adding some very useful features to Win2K's WINS.