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OpenDNS and Google team to speed up the web

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A few million Americans may find their YouTube (s goog) requests get delivered faster on Tuesday as Google, (s goog)  OpenDNS, VeriSign (s vrsn) and several content delivery networks announce the Global Internet Speed Up effort.

As the web scales and bandwidth demands rise, finding ways to deliver faster content is pushed out to the edge of networks, because the aggregated demand at the core would be too much to support and would add delays in delivering content. The Speed Up effort tries to take this another step further by making sure a user’s request for a content goes to a server near her, making delivery faster and more efficient from a bandwidth perspective.

At the center of the partnership between DNS providers and participating CDNs is the creation of a standard that attached location data to a DNS request so a user’s request for content goes to server nearby. Typically, a CDN or content provider routes a user based on the address of the DNS server, as opposed to the user’s location, but they aren’t always in the same region.

So now a user in Austin, Texas who types in the URL for a YouTube video will share part of his IP address as part of the DNS request. That way, the domain name system server can route the request to a Google data center in Dallas, as opposed to one in Ireland. It’s a simple idea, but it could result in faster access to content for ISPs and CDNs that elect to implement the open source code that makes this possible. David Ulevitch, CEO of Open DNS says the standard has been submitted to the IETF, but has not been ratified. The IETF is a standards body that governs protocols for the Internet.

For now, only users of Google’s Public DNS service, OpenDNS and Verisign will send out DNS information with a snippet of information gleaned from the user’s IP address. That will help the domain name servers that direct traffic around the web to send that traffic the closest provider. As for privacy concerns about attaching IP addresses to a DNS request, Ulevitch says the information only goes to companies that would see the IP address in a typical HTTP web request, so it’s not sharing any more information than is typical.

On Tuesday, when the new code is implemented, the 30 million Open DNS users and Google’s Public DNS service users visiting content hosted on the participating CDNs will immediately benefit. Ulevitch didn’t have a sense of how much improvement users might expect, although he did say it wouldn’t get worse for anyone. He hopes ISPs will also adopt the standard as well as more content delivery networks. Right now, Edgecast, Contendo, BitGravity and a few others are on board, but leaders such as Limelight (s llnw) or Akamai (s akam) are not.

So perhaps this could be the beginning of an open effort to improve the web, or perhaps it becomes another niche effort that makes web sites a bit faster for a few people when they visit selected sites. With Google on board, however, that’s still a lot of sites.

11 Responses to “OpenDNS and Google team to speed up the web”

  1. I think this is good and will be a stepping stone along the path to improved systems, but in its current form will remain niche. The Load Balancing Systems in use by some CDNs will actually have issues making use of this more detailed data, and most CDNs are still having issues with accuracy with on the much smaller universe of Local DNS IPs.

    More on the topic…

    Rich Day
    Highwinds Chief Customer Advocate

  2. Christian

    Great idea! Now how can I disable this? (i.e., do Google/OpenDNS run any public DNS servers that don’t send the IP (where the UDP request came from) to third parties?)

  3. Elliott Sims

    Interesting idea, but if the server is shared across regions does that mean cached results for users in one region might get sent to users in a different region? This could be prevented by considering the requesting block to be part of the record, but then you lose all the benefits of having a multi-region cacheing resolver in the first place.

  4. This speed doesn’t come without a cost in privacy. Now every DNS query is revealing information about your location to one more hop in the chain than it used to.

  5. I actually found that both OpenDNS and Google DNS were both worse than the BT Servers, with about double the response time. Not everybody is going to get a performance increase just by changing the DNS.

  6. David Ulevitch

    Great article Stacey, we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, and we know this is just the beginning.

    To set the record straight though, while Verisign is a co-author of the IETF draft that all of this work is based on, and they deserve a tremendous amount of credit for that, they aren’t actually participating in the Global Internet Speedup. We certainly hope they will and would love to include them when they do.

    The folks participating right now are: Google, OpenDNS, EdgeCast, CDNetworks, Comodo, BitGravity and CloudFlare.

    We look forward to having more participants join on soon, and we’re happy to help anyone implement this. Ideally, every major recursive DNS service and ISP along with every major content provider will implement this.

    • Founder

      David – All our offices have and set. Wonder if there’s anything further we need to do to fully enjoy the improvements? Also, are the benefits in millisecond range or something more shockingly apparent than even that?

  7. Aaron deMello

    Sounds like a great idea, it’ll be nice to see measured results in a few months. Hopefully the group will open the standard so that the Akamais of the world can join and benefit without compromising the secrecy of their proprietary CDNs.