Round robin DNS

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Round robin DNS is a technique of load distribution, load balancing, or fault-tolerance provisioning multiple, redundant Internet Protocol service hosts, e.g., Web servers, FTP servers, by managing the Domain Name System's (DNS) responses to address requests from client computers according to an appropriate statistical model.

In its simplest implementation Round-robin DNS works by responding to DNS requests not only with a single IP address, but a list of IP addresses of several servers that host identical services. The order in which IP addresses from the list are returned is the basis for the term round robin. With each DNS response, the IP address sequence in the list is permuted. Usually, basic IP clients attempt connections with the first address returned from a DNS query so that on different connection attempts clients would receive service from different providers, thus distributing the overall load among servers.

There is no standard procedure for deciding which address will be used by the requesting application - a few resolvers attempt to re-order the list to give priority to numerically "closer" networks. Some desktop clients do try alternate addresses after a connection timeout of 30-45 seconds.

Round robin DNS is often used for balancing the load of geographically-distributed Web servers. For example, a company has one domain name and three identical web sites residing on three servers with three different IP addresses. When one user accesses the home page it will be sent to the first IP address. The second user who accesses the home page will be sent to the next IP address, and the third user will be sent to the third IP address. In each case, once the IP address is given out, it goes to the end of the list. The fourth user, therefore, will be sent to the first IP address, and so forth.

Many IRC networks use round robin DNS to distribute users among the servers on their networks. Indeed, virtually all large and established networks have round robin DNS implementations for each continent or country in which they have servers - so users can use a 'random' server but not necessarily one local to them.

[edit] Drawbacks

Although easy to implement, round robin DNS has problematic drawbacks, such as those arising from record caching in the DNS hierarchy itself, as well as client-side address caching and reuse, the combination of which can be difficult to manage. Round robin DNS should not solely be relied upon for service availability. If a service at one of the addresses in the list fails, the DNS will continue to hand out that address and clients will still attempt to reach the inoperable service.

Also, it may not be the best choice for load balancing on its own since it merely alternates the order of the address records each time a name server is queried. There is no consideration for matching the user IP address and its geographical location, transaction time, server load, network congestion, etc. Round robin DNS load balancing works best for services with a large number of uniformly distributed connections to servers of equivalent capacity. Otherwise it just does load distribution.

Methods exist to overcome such limitations. For example, modified DNS servers (such as lbnamed[1]) can routinely poll mirrored servers for availability and load factor. If a server does not reply as required, the server can be temporarily removed from the DNS pool, until it reports that it is once again operating within specifications.

[edit] References

  1. ^ lbnamed, a load-balanced DNS server implemented in the Perl programming language
  • RFC 1794 - DNS Support for Load Balancing
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