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In Pursuit of the Fastest Recursive DNS with Internet Guide

First, a disclaimer… this posting refers to recursive DNS as provided by our free service Internet Guide. If you are looking for authoritative DNS performance benchmarking and data, such as that provided by our Dynect Platform, there is a great article by one of our clients on How to Compare Managed Authoritative DNS Providers (with Data!).

Second, just making sure we’re all on the same page… we’re going to be talking about free recursive DNS service such as that provided by OpenDNS, Google Public DNS, and others. This blog post is NOT talking about managed authoritative DNS service such as that provided by the Dynect Platform.

Now that we all understand we’re talking about free recursive DNS service, on with the story!

Roughly two weeks ago, Thomas Stromberg at Google released a recursive DNS benchmarking utility called namebench. The utility is ingenious; it selects a sampling of your browser’s history data to produce a realistic benchmark of how your Internet habits are affected by your recursive DNS provider. The net result is a simple report showing you how you can increase the speed of your Internet experience by changing your recursive DNS service provider. The utility has been downloaded over 100,000 times in less than two weeks, and there is no ceiling in sight. The message is clear to us; people care about DNS performance.

When the utility was first released, we were thrilled. Combined with the recent announcement that Google was getting into the recursive DNS space, this was a giant step forward in spreading the word on the importance of DNS.

However, when we first tested our free recursive DNS service using namebench on December 5, 2009, the results were shocking. Internet Guide (also called DynGuide for short), albeit only three months old, was just not fast. In fact, it was dead last. Here’s a snapshot of the first report we ran on December 5th:

Whereas Google Public DNS, OpenDNS, and others were able to consistently achieve average resolution times of 40-50ms (as measured from a home broadband connection on the east coast), the Internet Guide recursive DNS service was far more latent.

To be honest, our priorities for the service were anything but speed of query resolution. We wanted to provide the best web content filtering, anti-phishing, and anti-malware protection we possibly could (hence the slogan for the service, “Surf without the Sharks”), and we wanted to make sure that our highly technical users could take advantage of the content filtering and protection but not have to worry about NXDOMAIN redirection (hence, you can disable NXDOMAIN redirects with a single click).

The market, however, was providing us with a very open and honest reminder that speed and performance were important too. Not willing to settle for scoring in last place in namebench, we took a good hard look at what we could do to speed things up. And over the last two weeks, we’ve been very, very busy doing just that.

We started out originally (in beta) with 4 global locations for Internet Guide. By the time namebench was released, we were up to 7 global locations. Motivated by namebench, we deployed Internet Guide in five new global locations in the last two weeks, bringing the worldwide total to 12 datacenters around the globe.

But we didn’t stop with just “more servers.” We tweaked our configurations, optimized our kernels, and fine tuned our caches. We performed hundreds and hundreds of namebench tests, constantly striving to be the fastest recursive DNS provider. Considering Internet Guide is a 100% open and free service, it was a tremendous commitment by the engineering and operations teams at Dyn Inc. to our mottos and mantras of “We Are The DNS Experts” and “Engineering Excellence.”

Our efforts are starting to pay off. On December 17th, namebench reported the Internet Guide service as the fastest recursive DNS service available:

Of course, this is just a single test, from a single location, using a particular browsing history. Granted, DynGuide came in as the fastest recursive DNS service by a fraction of a single percent faster than the next service (hence, the giant “DynGuide is 0% faster than…” in the report). On its own, it is nothing spectacular. What is spectacular, however, is the demonstration of our commitment to providing our customers with the best (both free and paid) DNS services available, and that this is only the beginning. We have more performance enhancements up our sleeves, and they’re coming soon to a DNS query near you.

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Oracle Dyn Global Business Unit, a pioneer in managed DNS and a leader in cloud-based infrastructure that connects users with digital content and experiences across a global internet.

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