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The booming growth of Internet’s DNS infrastructure


As we noted a couple of weeks ago, the number of Internet users has doubled in the past five years. To handle this enormous influx of users, Internet’s infrastructure needs to grow as well. The Domain Name System (DNS), a critical part of that infrastructure, has more than met the challenge.

Five years ago there were 123 DNS root server sites (the “backend” of DNS) spread out on the Internet. Today there are more than twice as many, over 300. Five years ago, 46 countries had root servers. Today, 76 have them.

In other words, not only has the number of root servers grown tremendously, but their geographical spread has increased as well. This is good news for the overall stability and performance of DNS worldwide.

An interesting side note is that Europe has overtaken North America as the world region with the most root server sites.

Top 10 countries

The US hold over Internet’s infrastructure has been slipping for a while, and that trend isn’t changing. In 2007, the United States hosted 29.3% of all root server sites. Today, that number has gone down to 23.7%.

That said, if you look at single countries, the United States is still in a class of its own. Here are the top 10 countries and the number of root server sites in each:

root servers top 10 countries
Higher-res png version available here.

All 76 countries

For the sake of completeness, here is the full list of all 76 countries with root server sites:

71 root server sites:

12 root server sites:

11 root server sites:

10 root server sites:
France		Australia

9 root server sites:
Japan		Italy		Canada

6 root server sites:
South Africa	Netherlands

5 root server sites:
Hong Kong	Sweden		UK		New Zealand

4 root server sites:
Egypt		China		India		Singapore
South Korea	Belgium		Norway		Poland
Russia		Spain		Switzerland

3 root server sites:
Kenya		Indonesia	Malaysia	Philippines
Taiwan		Czech Rep.	Finland		Turkey
Saudi Arabia	Argentina	Chile

2 root server sites:
Bangladesh	Austria		Bulgaria	Greece
Ireland		Luxembourg	Portugal	Ukraine
Qatar		UAE

1 root server site:
Mozambique	Senegal		Tanzania	Armenia
Bhutan		Nepal		Pakistan	Sri Lanka
Thailand	Denmark		Estonia		Hungary
Iceland		Latvia		Lithuania	Montenegro
Romania		Bahrain		Israel		Mexico
Sint Maarten	Panama		Puerto Rico	Fiji
Guam		Colombia	Ecuador		Peru
Uruguay		Venezuela

An additional five years from now there may very well be over a 100 countries on this list.

Growth by world region

The geographical distribution of the DNS infrastructure is vital. The closer you are to a root server, the faster your DNS lookups can be handled.

In addition to performance considerations, having a large number of root server sites ensures stability if there are local network disruptions or even direct attacks on the DNS infrastructure. Disruptions are more common on the Internet than most people are aware of. We notice it simply because our service monitors the uptime of hundreds of thousands of websites around the world.

The number of root server sites has increased in every part of the world, although Europe and North America have laid claim to the bulk of them.

root servers by region
Higher-res png version available here.

Needless to say, the division isn’t quite as equal as it probably should be, but we’ll have a closer look at that next week.

The hardware boost factor

There is another aspect to the increasing capacity of Internet’s DNS infrastructure that we haven’t taken into consideration here, which is that server hardware is getting more powerful, and can handle more requests.

So really, you not only have more root server sites, but on average they are bound to be more powerful as time goes by. Thus the total capacity increase is larger than the increase in locations.

Final words

Without a well-functioning DNS, the Internet would be pretty useless to most of us. Who would want to use IP addresses instead of domain and host names? It’s one of those technologies that we use all the time without really thinking about it.

Since the DNS root servers are so critical to the Internet, we’re very happy to see that they are keeping pace with the general growth of the Internet. A more robust network of root servers is also much harder to damage or overload, either by accident or on purpose.

We’re actually not done with this data yet. We have one more post coming with additional analysis in a couple of days, so stay tuned (it’s out!).

Data source: and our own modest fiddling with those numbers.

Top image via Shutterstock.

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