What do you think the number one source of traffic is on the Internet today? E-Mail? Not even close. Conventional Web sites? Not way! Porn!? No, believe it or not, it's not that either. The single biggest source of traffic on today's Internet is Netflix. Its videos, and those of other video sites, require their users to have not only very fast Internet connections, but fast and accurate pointers to the closest and fastest Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) sites. That's where Google, OpenDNS, and some of CDNs hope to improve things with the Global Internet Speedup initiative, a worldwide effort to improve Internet speeds and enable faster access to information.
According to this new Internet consortium, "The Global Internet Speedup enhances the way communication within the Domain Name System (DNS) is handled. The Internet has evolved from simple text-based pages to bandwidth intensive services such as video streaming, real-time communications and rich social networking that have become indispensable parts of our everyday lives. The DNS plays a critical role in delivering content fast, acting as one of the first pieces of the routing infrastructure that helps users get to content quickly and is the cornerstone for every major CDN. CDNs and other large Internet services typically direct the user to the nearest content server based on the location of the user's DNS server rather than the location of the user themselves. This routing may result in slower Web page load times and decreased Internet performance if a user is not located near their DNS server."
You might be wondering if this is really necessary. It is. According to the latest Sandvine Global Internet Phenomena Report for Spring 2011 (PDF Link) "Real-Time Entertainment traffic continues to grow, and now accounts for almost half (49.2%) of all bytes traversing the network during the peak evening hours." Of that, "Netflix accounts for 29.7% of peak period downstream traffic" and "Even when averaged over the entire day, and when including both upstream and downstream traffic, Netflix is [the] #1 ... bandwidth leader on North America's fixed access networks."
The Global Internet Speedup attempts to speed up this video Internet traffic ham by "by enabling CDNs to make more intelligent routing decisions based on the approximate location of a user rather than just the location of the user's OpenDNS or Google Public DNS server. In short, according to OpenDNS, "Regardless of where Internet users are located around the world, or which OpenDNS or Google Public DNS datacenter DNS requests are being served from, users connecting to participating Internet sites and CDNs' content through OpenDNS and Google Public DNS will automatically be connected to the nearest or most optimal CDN server. The cooperation using open Internet standards among OpenDNS, Google, and the world's leading CDNs represents a significant milestone in the continued improvement of Internet connectivity through technical collaborations amongst leading Internet companies."
"The initiative we've partnered on is based on open standards that any other network can adopt, making this technology available to anyone," said OpenDNS CEO David Ulevitch in a statement We're proud to be leading the charge together with the world's leading Internet companies and CDNs and we're stoked to be delivering speed improvements to our more than 30 million users and thousands of enterprise businesses." Dave Presotto, Distinguished Engineer at Google, added in the statement that "Google is committed to making the Internet faster - not just for our users, but for everyone."
So, how are they going to do this? The ideas are laid out in an experimental Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) draft standard: "Client subnet in DNS requests." This draft, which was written by engineers from Google, VeriSign and Neustar, defines "an EDNS0 [Extension Mechanisms for DNS] extension to carry information about the network that originated a DNS query, and the network for which a reply can be cached." This enables remote DNS servers, such as those offered by OpenDNS or Google Public DNS and by many big IPSs, to work out where someone is located when they ask for a Web site address and then use that information to point them to their closest, in terms of network traffic, CDN for their video stream.
The net result of this, the Global Internet Speedup partners hope, is to improve the Internet video watching experience for anyone who uses services such as Netflix, Hulu, and ESPN3 or Internet TV devices such as the Apple TV, high-end Blu-Ray DVD players that include Internet video support, or Roku players. Speaking as someone who uses all of the above and who--even a 60Mbps cable Internet connection--has been left waiting for a video-stream to start, I have high hope that this new DNS addition will work and will soon be adopted by all the major DNS providers.