How does the Latin American DNS Observatory work?

24-04-2018
Article based on an interview with Hugo Salgado, Bachelor of Science in Engineering with a Major in Computer Science from the Universidad de Chile and Software Engineer at NIC Chile.
Journalist: Johanna Montalván

The Latin American DNS Observatory is a project that intends to obtain constant and objective measurements of known parameters at the level of Latin American domain names, in order to write reports and gather information that can help improve the management of this resource. Moreover, by estimating the improvements in infrastructure, it is possible to take long and medium term corrective measures, which should be reflected in the improvement of the indexes.

The Observatory is already conducting measurements and has released the first proof-of-concept report, using an observation point in Santiago de Chile and with domain names obtained from Alexa-1M and the entire areas of Chile and El Salvador. 

“Everyday, people become increasingly dependent on Internet, and we must be up to this by providing improved DNS robustness, and redundancy, protecting against failures and unexpected events for which there are proven techniques to safeguard DNS operation”, Salgado said. 

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a critical Internet infrastructure layer which allows the operation of other layers above it, including end-user applications, such as websites, emails, instant messaging, etc. The DNS is beneath each of these technologies, supporting and allowing real-time, dynamic changes in order to adapt to traffic, avoid attacks, balance load, etc.

The Observatory constantly performs queries to the Latin American and Caribbean DNS, processing their answers and determining the safety and resilience indexes of domain names.

Data

For a comprehensive measurement, the list of all domain names in the region is necessary. In this first preliminary report, a public, alternative source —the “Alexa 1M website list”, which provides a ranking of the million most popular websites on the Internet— was selected, and it was filtered in order to obtain only Latin American domain names. The Observatory was supplied with this list of domain names, and the actions covered in such report were taken. 

This list serves a prototype; however, the results are not comparable to a full regional analysis. Alexa domains share certain unique characteristics that cannot be extrapolated to other domains. Since they are highly popular sites, they are expected to have better infrastructure than the more ordinary domains, so they actually represent an “upper threshold” in terms of measures.

Another relevant point is that results are grouped taking into account the entire region. No division or comparison per country is made, since the goal is to determine regional trends.

How does it work?

Observatorio del DNS funcionamiento

Based on this LAC domain name list, a data collector located in Santiago de Chile is supplied, which regularly runs all the name servers of each of these domains performing DNS queries that help track these metrics.

It also uses other sources of information (e.g. ASN and geo-referencing - autonomous numbers) to complete another sort of analysis.

With this data, a Big Data repository is created, and it is quarterly summarized, plotted and analyzed in order to draft the report. 

This study was created as a project of ICANN’s Strategic Plan for the LAC region, by an original design group that defined the important metrics to be first analyzed. At present, NIC Chile operates the observation node and is in charge of managing and agreeing with the participant first-level domains. NIC Chile Labs, a Research Lab, is responsible for the analysis of data and the publication of quarterly reports. The Lab has also developed the software used to collect the information.

The production of good-practice documents in the management of the DNS is expected to increase for the whole community’s benefit.

*The original post was published in the LACTLD Report No. 10.