Comparative Performance Results of BIND Versions - March 2020

Now that the latest version of BIND 9 has been released, it is worthwhile to look at the performance enhancements that have taken place over the past couple of years.

As part of the development cycle of BIND, we carry out a set of performance tests. Our performance laboratory system (somewhat unimaginatively called “perflab”) is continually cycling through all configurations registered with it, building BIND and running a performance test. (Details of the system have been presented elsewhere (e.g. https://www.isc.org/docs/bellis-oarc-perflab.pdf) so it will not be described here.) In this way, as the development branches are updated with changes, the effect of those changes on performance is quickly visible.

Among the configurations tested, the following are especially important:

  1. Root zone: As a number of the twelve root server operators run BIND on at least some of their servers, and given the crucial importance of the root zone to the global DNS infrastructure, we test the performance of BIND when serving a copy of the root zone.
  2. One thousand zones/one million zones: These tests simulate the environment of a web hosting provider, whose server might be serving zones for a number of customers. Each of the zones in the test is very small, comprising just an SOA, NS, A, and AAAA record.
  3. One million delegations: This configuration simulates a large top- (or second-level) domain, where the zone comprises almost exclusively delegations to the zones of subdomain owners.
  4. One million resource records: The opposite extreme to the one million delegation test. In that test, BIND returns referrals in response to queries; in this test BIND returns resource records from within the zone.
  5. Recursive: with the aid of a third machine acting as the authoritative server, this test checks how BIND responds when acting as a recursive server. As noted below, the figures obtained are for measurements of queries for names in the cache.

For each scenario, the query set is one that will result in about 5% NXDOMAIN responses (with the exception of the root zone test, where the query set was taken from a real traffic stream, and contains about 2.8% NXDOMAINs).

To obtain a figure for the query rate that BIND can handle, perflab starts up the server under test. It then fires queries at it for 30 seconds and calculates a query rate. This 30-second measurement is repeated 30 times and a figure for the query rate (and standard deviation) is calculated. The first measurement is discarded from calculations. For recursive measurements, this allows the cache to be filled and so subsequent tests are measuring the same thing - the time taken to get a name from cache. But for all tests, it also allows the server to settle down - for all data structures to be created and reach their final size.

Bar chart comparing performance of different BIND 9 versions

The series of measurements presented here is taken from those of current development branches, at a point a few days after the current set of releases was generated. Also included are the results for the 9.14 series, which (at the time of writing) has just reached its end of life; this is no longer actively tested, so the results here are from the last measurements taken, after the release of 9.14.11.

The graphs clearly show the improvement in performance from 9.11 through 9.14 to 9.16. Significant investment in performance improvements began in work for 9.12, where the removal of the old “additional cache” and the introduction of a new “glue cache” vastly improved performance in delegation-centric zones. Since then, a lot of work has been put into the refactoring of the network code. BIND was written in the days of slower machines and slower networks, and the model that suited it well then was in need of update. So 9.16 introduced the updated network manager, which as well as improving performance has made that area of the code more maintainable.

Since the release of 9.16 there have been further internal changes that are still being assessed; the most recent changes appear to have led to a small decrease in performance of the master branch (from which the 9.17 releases are taken). This will be the subject of investigation over the months to come.

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