Anycast DNS: What It Is & Why It’s Important

Anycast DNS: What It Is and Why It’s Important

Anycast DNS is a networking technique that allows multiple DNS servers to share the same IP address, directing user requests to the nearest or fastest server for improved performance.

In this article, we will explore the concept of Anycast DNS and its benefits in optimizing DNS resolution for websites and online services.

Takeaways
  • Anycast DNS enables DNS servers to share the same IP address and forward user requests to closer and faster servers
  • Using Anycast DNS helps improve performance and enable redundancy
  • Anycast DNS is not available on IPv4 but can be enabled through unicast routing. The IPv6 supports Anycast DNS.

What Is Anycast DNS Routing?

Anycast DNS allows multiple DNS servers to share the same IP address, enabling them to respond to DNS queries from different locations.

This setup leverages the routing system to direct user requests to the nearest server, optimizing response times and reducing network congestion.

Anycast DNS enhances both the reliability and performance of DNS resolution, making it a vital component for websites and online services that require high availability and low latency.

What Is Anycast?

Anycast is a networking and routing technique where multiple servers share the same IP address. However, unlike anycast DNS, which primarily focuses on DNS servers, anycast works with various services and resources.

The system routes requests to the nearest server based on network topology, enabling improved performance, redundancy, and load distribution for a range of services, not limited to DNS.

Key Features of Anycast

Anycast is a versatile networking configuration with several key features that make it a valuable tool for optimizing various online services and resources. We listed those features below.

  • Shared IP: Multiple servers share the same IP address.
  • Localization: Requests are directed to the nearest server based on network proximity.
  • Redundancy: Enhances reliability by having multiple server instances.
  • Scalability: Easily scales by adding more anycast nodes to the network.
  • Load distribution: Distributes incoming traffic across multiple servers, preventing overload on a single node.

GeoDNS vs Anycast vs Unicast vs Multicast vs Broadcast

Routing Method

 

DescriptionKey Features and Use Cases
Geocast (GeoDNS)Directs traffic based on the geographical location of the client.-Tailored DNS responses based on user location

-Directs to nearest server or content delivery node

Anycast DNSMultiple servers share the same IP address– Response time optimization

– Better performance

– Redundancy

Unicast DNSOne-to-one communication. Each query is sent to a specific server-Straightforward

– No load balancing and replication features

– Suitable for basic DNS resolution

Multicast DNSUsed for local network discovery and communicationUsed for local network services
Broadcast DNSBroadcasting data packets to all devices within a network segmentUsed for legacy networks and is less suitable for modern and efficient networks
Note

Each of these methods has distinct use cases and benefits, with GeoDNS and Anycast focusing on routing efficiency and reduced latency, Unicast on direct communication, Multicast on efficient group data distribution, and Broadcast on wide-reaching network transmission.

How Does Anycast DNS Work?

Anycast DNS is a clever technique that optimizes the DNS process by using multiple geographically distributed DNS servers to respond to user queries.

In Anycast DNS, multiple servers, distributed across different geographical locations, share the same IP address. When a user makes a DNS request, this DNS query travels through the internet with routers determining the shortest path based on BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) announcements. BGP protocol is a key element in internet routing and it enhances DNS query resolution.

The BGP infrastructure then directs the query to the nearest Anycast DNS server in terms of network proximity, not just geographic location. This selection is based on the shortest path determined by BGP, ensuring that the response time is minimized.

After reaching the selected Anycast DNS server, the server performs the actual DNS query resolution. This involves translating the human-readable domain names, like “www.example.com,” into their corresponding IP addresses, such as “192.168.1.1.”

The proximity-based routing helps optimize response times, minimizing latency. This is beneficial for services that require high-speed internet performance, such as streaming or online gaming.

Anycast DNS Setup and Implementation

Setting up and deploying Anycast involves several steps. We listed them below:

  • Routers: Configure them to advertise the Anycast IP ranges​.
  • BGP: Manipulate BGP attributes to influence routing decisions​.
  • Consistency: Establish routing policies to ensure regional servers are preferred​.
  • Monitoring: Keep track of metrics such as latencies and bandwidth to ensure the system is running optimally​.
  • Capacity Planning: Scale the Anycast servers according to demand to maintain load balancing​.

Example of Anycast DNS

Imagine you’re in New York, and you want to visit a website hosted in Los Angeles. When you enter the website’s address in your browser, Anycast DNS directs your request to the closest DNS server, which happens to be in New York.

This server quickly finds the website’s IP address and sends it back to you. This reduces the time it takes for your browser to load the website, making your online experience faster and more efficient.

How Do DNS Queries Work without Anycast?

Most of the internet infrastructure supports unicast routing rather than anycast DNS.

Unicast routing means that each DNS server will have one IP address, meaning that every DNS query goes to a specific server. If a certain DNS resolver has a downtime, the browser will resolve it through additional DNS resolvers.

This process is effective but can result in longer response times compared to Anycast DNS.

Advantages of Anycast DNS

There are plenty of advantages to using of Anycast DNS:

  • Automatic Load Balancing: Anycast DNS automatically distributes incoming DNS queries to the nearest server, distributing the traffic load across multiple server instances.
  • Improved Anycast Network Latency: Anycast DNS reduces network latency by directing users to the nearest DNS server.
  • Enhanced DNS Security and DDoS Attack Mitigation: Anycast DNS can enhance security by dispersing DNS infrastructure geographically. In the event of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, traffic can be distributed across multiple locations, making it harder for attackers to overwhelm a single server.

How Does Anycast DNS Mitigate DDoS Attacks?

Anycast DNS mitigates Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks through several mechanisms:

  • Improved Network Availability and DNS High Availability: Anycast DNS distributes DNS servers across multiple locations. When a DDoS attack targets one server, others can continue to respond to legitimate queries.
  • Improved Network Reliability: By dispersing DNS infrastructure, Anycast reduces the risk of a single point of failure.
  • Simplified DNS Server Configuration for Clients: Anycast DNS simplifies client configurations as users connect to the nearest server automatically.
  • Faster Connection: Anycast directs users to the nearest DNS server, reducing the time it takes to resolve domain names.

Is Anycast IPv4 or IPv6?

Anycast can be implemented with both IPv4 and IPv6. IPv4 is the older and more widely used Internet Protocol version. It uses 32-bit addresses, limiting the number of unique IP addresses available, which has led to IPv4 address exhaustion.

Unfortunately, IPv4 does not inherently support anycast routing, but this drawback can be worked around by using BGP routing.

IPv6 is the newer Internet Protocol version that can address the drawbacks of IPv4. It uses 128-bit addresses, providing a virtually unlimited number of unique IP addresses. It also supports anycast routing.

However, despite the advantages of IPv6, its adoption remains relatively low, with under 20% of

devices on the internet using it. The transition from IPv4 to IPv6 is a gradual process, as whole network infrastructure should shift towards it.

Final Word

Anycast DNS is a valuable asset that can optimize DNS resolution through automatic load balancing, low latency, and DDoS attack mitigation enhancing the reliability and performance of online services.

If you’re looking to take your business online and build a website, dive into our compilation of best website builders and web hosting services that will meet the needs of your business.

Next Steps: What Now?

Learn More About DNS

Frequently Asked Questions

How to setup anycast DNS?

Anycast DNS is typically implemented by configuring multiple DNS servers with the same IP address and then announcing that IP address using BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) to direct user traffic to the nearest server. Setting up Anycast DNS requires network expertise and coordination with Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Does Google DNS use Anycast?

Yes, Google’s Public DNS service (8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4) uses Anycast. Google has distributed DNS servers around the world, and when you use their DNS service, your requests are routed to the nearest Google DNS server for faster DNS resolution.

What is the Anycast network address?

The Anycast network address is a single IP address that multiple servers share. It’s the address that users query when they request DNS resolution or other services. Each server in the Anycast network has the same IP address.

Does anycast have the same IP address?

Yes, all servers in an Anycast network share the same IP address. This shared IP address is what distinguishes Anycast routing, as multiple servers respond to requests for that same IP, with the closest server being selected to handle each request.

What is the use of anycast IP?

Anycast IP addresses are used to provide high availability, low latency, and efficient load balancing for various services, including DNS resolution, content delivery, and other networked applications. Anycast helps direct users to the nearest server, improving performance and resilience across the internet.

Sonja Vitas
Edited By:
Sonja Vitas
Content Editor

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