Building the infrastructure of tomorrow

16th February 2021

Adam Leach headshot

Adam Leach

Last week we announced we are committing £20 million to upgrade all of our critical services, focusing on improvements to the .UK name space that will ensure a resilient, reliable and secure future in an increasingly complex digital landscape. 

Technology has changed significantly over the last decade; our last infrastructure upgrade was focused on moving from predominantly on-premise systems, located at our Head Quarters, to our own private cloud hosted in secure third-party datacentres. This time our focus is on adopting a hybrid cloud platform to allow us to migrate seamlessly to public cloud infrastructure, reduce our dependency on our own physical hardware and take advantage of the endless computer capacity and resilience provided by the cloud. This is critical given our significant growth over the last decade. 

As of today, the .UK register is made up of 10 million domains in addition to the 75 top-level domains that we operate. Nominet’s registry system that supports these domains is made up of 12 million lines of code contained in 81 unique applications. These applications run across 190 virtual servers made up of over 600 physical CPU cores, over 300 TB of storage and over 8TB of memory. This infrastructure is required to support the 100,000 plus daily users that we have across our applications and servers that generate over 25 million requests to our registry database per day. These critical applications have maintained an uptime of over 99.9%. 

The infrastructure to support our registry platform is in addition to our global DNS infrastructure, which in December 2020 received over 300 billion DNS queries and maintained 100% availability. A majority of these DNS queries, over 240 billion, were directed to .UK domains. In the last three years this has grown by 68%. 

Our Technology Transformation Programme (TTP), aims to modernise Nominet’s core infrastructure that underlies all of our key registry systemsThis will involve expanding our datacentre footprint and provisioning new more capable hardware and software across all our datacentres. By doing so, we will increase the security, stability and resilience of our services in line with the ever growing demands of operating Critical National Infrastructure (CNI).

Anyone who works in the IT sector will be familiar with the many-faceted challenges of upgrading infrastructure whilst maintaining service up-timeWhilst we continually invest in our technology platform, there comes a time when the physical hardware needs to be upgraded, just as we upgrade our laptops and phones every few years. Nominet last did a complete stack refresh back in 2011, putting in place a platform that has provided a 10-year lifetime. This investment has served us well, but we are now looking ahead to the next ten years.   

Nominet is very proud to be part of the UK’s Critical National Infrastructure (CNI). However, this isn’t merely a label that we can display on our website. The responsibility of running CNI comes at a cost. The demands of running our infrastructure to the high standards required by our stakeholders, and mandated in law by regulation, means that we need to build security and resilience into the fabric of our platform. The security threat landscape, like the wider technology landscape, is evolving at pace and this requires our engineers to constantly re-evaluate and sometimes even re-design core elements of ouplatform.  

This essential work, improving how our core systems are architected, protects Nominet and all the users of the .UK name space against ever more frequent and complex threats. In most cases, these changes are completely invisible to our users, just the way it should be.  

It’s an important programme, and a significant investment, that underlines our commitment to future proofing Nominet’s infrastructure for all those who depend on it.   

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