A Study on the Performance of the Root Name Servers
Kenjiro Cho, Akira Kato, Yutaka Nakamura, Ryuji Somegawa
Yuji Sekiya, Tatsuya Jinmei, Shigeya Suzuki, and Jun Murai
This is an ongoing effort to investigate the root name server
performance from various locations of the Internet.
We use simple probe programs to measure the responsetime of the root
servers. We also measure the response time of the ccTLD servers to
compare them with the root servers.
One of the most critical components of the Internet is the Domain Name
System (DNS) [MD88]
that translates host names to and from IP addresses.
DNS is a distributed database in which domain names are maintained in
a hierarchical tree structure.
A domain in the domain name space may be divided into subdomains,
and the administration of a subdomain may be delegated.
A zone is an administrative unit of the domain name space in which a set
of name servers are authoritative for the domain as well as
responsible for providing referrals of its delegated subdomains.
Crucial to the operation of DNS is the root name servers that
provide referrals to authoritative name servers for the top-level domains.
Currently, there are 13 root name servers; 6 in the East Coast, 4 in
the West Coast, 2 in Europe, and 1 in Japan
a map at WIA).
The number, location and distribution of root name servers
affect the total system performance and reliability of DNS.
It is advantageous to have a root name server nearby
but there is not enough data to technically investigate better root
server distribution for the common good.
The goal of this project is to provide technical methods to evaluate
locations of root name servers
in order to better understand the performance of the root name server
system and to plan for future reconfigurations.
Another goal is to provide recommendations on server selection
algorithms and cache mechanisms for recursive name servers at the
client side to make good use of the root servers.
Note that this study addresses only the performance aspect.
We do not discuss other important operational or political factors
such as robustness and reliability.
Our approach is three-fold:
Make root server performance measurements from many sites
around the Internet.
We are interested in how the root server performance looks
from different parts of the Internet, especially, from sites
far from the core of the Internet.
Study the server selection algorithms and the cache behaviour
of name server implementations so as to determine whether
good algorithms mitigate the need for good root performance.
When the name cache mechanism works as designed,
the number of queries to the root name servers should be very
small for each recursive name server at the client side.
If the impact of the root name server performance to the
entire DNS performance is negligible, it is better to drop
performance concerns and focus on reliability issues.
Use data from 1 and models from 2 in simulations of changes to
location of the root servers.
Once we have measurement data from various locations,
it becomes possible to simulate rearrangement plans.
Two simple programs, rootprobe and cctldprobe, were developed.
rootprobe sends queries to the root servers every 5 minutes,
and reports the measured response time by e-mail.
cctldprobe is a ccTLD version of rootprobe, and sends queries
to the ccTLD servers instead of the root servers. The query interval
of cctldprobe is 2 hours.
Both programs exit after running for 2 weeks.
The latest version of the software:
The results are available from
here, and updated once a day.
For each measurement site, 3 graphs are created.
The first graph shows the response time and the query loss rate for
each root server.
The second graph is the CDF (Cumulative Distribution Function) of the
(median) response time of the root servers and the ccTLD servers.
The third graph shows the hourly-average response time of the root
We are looking for volumteers to run the probe tools, especially from
If you can help, please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ccTLD servers as reference points
The measured response time from a client site includes the latency of
the access link so that there is not much point in comparing the
response time from different measurement sites, especially when the
access link speed differs considerably.
One way to compensate for the access link speed is to use other
reference points, ideally, distributed around the world.
By comparing with reference points, we can obtain the relative
performance of the root servers.
This allows us to do measurement by dialing up to a commercial access
point in a target city where we do not have collaborators.
Although measurements may not be accurate due to long dialup delay and
a limited number of sampling count, we can get a rough idea about
the performance observed from those cities.
In our measurements, the ccTLD servers are used as reference points.
Most ccTLD zones have multiple servers; one or more in US and one or
more in their country or neighbor countries.
As a result, the majority of the ccTLD servers are in the Internet
core but the rest of the servers are distributed around the world.
From a given client site, the ccTLD servers are divided into 3 groups:
nearby servers, servers in the Internet core, and the rest of the
servers widely-distributed behind the Internet core.
Currently, there are 243 ccTLD zones which have 601 unique server addresses
We have manually investigated the locations of the ccTLD servers using
traceroute and the whois database, and found that
the servers are distributed in 154 countries.
As Figure 1 shows, 149 servers (24.2%) are in US, 25 servers (4.1%)
are in UK but 200 servers (32.5%) in Others are distributed in 119
Figure 1. the distribution of the unique ccTLD servers
Note that the distribution of the ccTLD servers does not have any
meaning but we use it simply because the servers of the ccTLD zones
have wider distribution than those of other zones.
We currently measure the response time of all the ccTLD servers, but
it is also possible to select a subset of the servers so as to
represent different regions in the world.
Our focus is the root server system but the techniques can also be
applied to other zones.
Developing a set of DNS measurement tools itself is a big challenge
since there are known difficulties in measuring DNS
We intend to extend our research to more generic DNS measurement in
- Yuji Sekiya, Kenjiro Cho, Akira Kato, Ryuji Sonegawa,
Tatsuya Jinmei and Jun Murai.
Root and ccTLD DNS server observation from worldwide locations.
PAM2003, La Jolla, CA, April 2003.
- Ryuji Somegawa, Kenjiro Cho, Yuji Sekiya and Suguru Yamaguchi.
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$Date: 2003/04/03 06:58:24 $