Skip to Main Content
This paper presents a detailed analysis of traces of domain name system (DNS) and associated TCP traffic collected on the Internet links of the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). The first part of the analysis details how clients at these institutions interact with the wide-area domain name system, focusing on client-perceived performance and the prevalence of failures and errors. The second part evaluates the effectiveness of DNS caching. In the most recent MIT trace, 23% of lookups receive no answer; these lookups account for more than half of all traced DNS packets since query packets are retransmitted overly persistently. About 13% of all lookups result in an answer that indicates an error condition. Many of these errors appear to be caused by missing inverse (IP-to-name) mappings or NS records that point to nonexistent or inappropriate hosts. 27% of the queries sent to the root name servers result in such errors. The paper also presents the results of trace-driven simulations that explore the effect of varying time-to-live (TTL) and varying degrees of cache sharing on DNS cache hit rates. Due to the heavy-tailed nature of name accesses, reducing the TTL of address (A) records to as low as a few hundred seconds has little adverse effect on hit rates, and little benefit is obtained from sharing a forwarding DNS cache among more than 10 or 20 clients. These results suggest that client latency is not as dependent on aggressive caching as is commonly believed, and that the widespread use of dynamic low-TTL A-record bindings should not greatly increase DNS related wide-area network traffic.