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The Dynjeeling Unlimited: Searching For The Right Data Center In India

As I write this, I’m in India scouting out a new data center location to add to our growing list of Anycast DNS POPs. It’s one of my favorite types of projects to be involved in, especially as Dyn’s Chief Scientist.

The process of locating a data center is a mix of technical and business oriented milestones. It is always fun to learn about doing business in a new part of the world and investigating that portion of the world’s Internet topology. It’s a way to get connected to the brick and mortal of our industry: seeing the buildings, fiber optic entrances, power systems and cooling systems that help keep our DNS packets flowing throughout the world.

And with a population of 1.2 billion people, India is a region of the world that Dyn wants to help better serve DNS to.

Through my content, it is my intent to give a glimpse into what I see and hear as I tour data centers in Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai – the telecommunications capitals of India. I’m going to attempt a posting from each of these cities as my travel companion and Dyn analytics lead Raj Vysetty and I travel through the country.

The journey has begun.

How did we get here?

With all Dyn anycast POPs, the recipe remains the same in starting the plan: perform a needs analysis of the location proposed for a data center, scout out major IP transit networks in the region, identify a series of data center providers and develop business terms for working together.

In the case of India, the needs analysis was fairly simple to perform: a country of 1.2 billion people, IP networks nearly growing at a rate surpassing those of the G-20 by 2016 (report by Boston Consulting Group’s Connected World Series) and latency to our DNS servers around 75ms, as seen by Catchpoint.

Dynjeeling Unlimited
Raj Vysetty (left) and Tom Daly (right) are traveling India. Unfortunately, Owen Wilson is not with them.

Latency wise, 75 ms in South Asia isn’t too bad at all as our Singapore and Hong Kong nodes have been serving the country well.

But we’ve learned that telecom networks in India are oddly separated with a majority of providers in the east (Bangalore, Chennai) routing traffic towards Singapore, while those in the west (Mumbai) prefer to route traffic towards Europe. Mumbai to Europe is not a short path: about 150ms.

However, our relationship with Tata Communications keeps a good majority of the bits flowing towards Asia.

Having said that, identifying networks in the region was our next task and there are four killer tools to do that.

The data from these tools helped us to identify who the major backbones of India are: Tata Communications, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Globalcomm.

Those tools are:

  • PeeringDB: A public database with peering information about networks around the world.
  • Renesys Routing Intelligence: A BGP data aggregator used to show inter-autonomous system relationships, i.e. who’s connected to who
  • Hurricane Electric’s BGP Analysis Tool: More BGP data, plus aggregated WHOIS and RIR info.
  • Traceroute: Unix-traceroute, the tool to map paths through the Internet.

With our networks in hand, we next began scouting data center locations. An obvious choice is to collocate with one of the backbone providers, but Dyn as a whole is more of a carrier neutral type of customer (but we won’t rule the backbones out yet).

Scouting data centers is a bit harder because there’s no “traceroute” for data centers and in fact, most data centers go out of their way to hide themselves. Looking through the toolbox, we find the following options:

  • PeeringDB: again, a great resource to find facilities.
  • data centermap.com: a reasonably well aggregated list of data centers around the world
  • Friends from NANOG: probably the best source of information on this topic.

With this information in hand, we started outreach to all of the different parties we identified as being critical to the operation. We explained what our needs are for colocation and bandwidth, developed a sense of pricing for the marketplace in India and began to arrange tours with the various facility providers.

Bon Voyage!

After about a month of planning, I’m pleased to be sitting in a hotel room in the city of Chennai in the state of Tamil Nadu located in the southeastern portion of India. I flew into India on a direct flight from Newark, NJ to Mumbai, IN (Air India #144 – only 16 hours!) – with a quick domestic hop to Chennai.

In my first few days, I’ll be checking out data centers in Chennai and I’ll report my findings, as well as some of the key things I’m looking for in my next blog post.


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Whois: Tom Daly

Tom Daly is a co-founder of Dyn, a pioneer in managed DNS and a leader in cloud-based infrastructure that connects users with digital content and experiences across a global internet.