Liquid Telecom, a source at the company has told us, is implementing an Anycast DNS platform in Africa for hosting of their domain’s DNS, but more importantly for us all, as public DNS servers for internet users across the continent. This, in theory at this moment, as we have not exhaustively tested it, simply means faster internet for people that choose to use it.
A little background first
Ever been in a situation where somehow you were connected to the internet but you can’t open websites in your browser? And then maybe you asked a techie what that was about and the problem vanished after they switched something they referred to as DNS servers from your ISP’s to Google’s. And they told you to leave the new settings as they were.
This issue is super annoying actually coz no ordinary internet user knows where to start to help themselves, and yet it’s a common problem. Thankfully though, once the settings have been changed to Google or other global DNS providers though, you’re sorted.
What are these DNS servers and why are they important
Put simply, DNS servers are what help your computer or phone locate the addresses of the websites and apps that you connect to. By default, your ISP does all this technical stuff in the background so you never need to know about it. Except that ISPs by default make you connect to the internet using their DNS servers and because these go down sometimes (maintenance of a robust DNS infrastructure is not their speciality) you find yourself in the situation above.
Which is why amazing internet companies like Google made it their job to provide a public DNS service that is robust. Them and OpenDNS (really cool DNS service) and Ultra DNS, and DNS Advantage. And now, for users in Africa at least Liquid Telecom. It’s not that public DNS servers are a big deal – operators on the continent like MTN, Mweb, iWayAfrica etc… already have them – it’s that being anycast with nodes across the continent means faster services and that the chances of it ever being down are very slim.
How does Liquid’s infrastructure work?
The recursive DNS the company is rolling out is primarily for Liquid customers and their ISPs but it’s going to be publicly available on 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168. It uses the exact same principle as Google DNS but the key advantage over Google even is that the servers being on the African continent means they are closer to African users which translates to faster internet.
The anycast servers will be located in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya or Uganda and London. If you want find out more about anycast, read this. Being anycast essentially means that should any of the servers in these countries fail, internet users will automatically be able to use the servers in the other countries (all of which are still closer than Google) without calling on a techie to change the settings.
Our tests show that where it would take about 180 milliseconds to reach Google’s Public DNS servers, the new Liquid DNS servers performed below 20ms. In addition to Zimbabwe, we are told the South Africa and Kenya nodes are already online and that Uganda and London are going live in the coming weeks.