W3C libwww Architecture

DNS Cache and Host Name Canonicalization

An excessive communication with remote Domain Name Servers (DNS) can produce a significant time-overhead in requesting a document from a remote server which can result in degraded performance of the application. This is often the case in spite of DNS's own cache, as the request still has to cross the network. In order to prevent this, the Library has its internal memory cache of host names which is updated every time a host name is looked up in the DNS cache. Once the host name has been resolved into an IP-address, it is stored in the cache. The entry stays in the cache until either an error occurs when connecting to the remote host or it is removed during garbage collection. However, as the information kept in the cache is fairly small, it can contain a large set of elements.

Multi-homed hosts are treated specially as all available IP-addresses returned from DNS are stored in the cache. Every time a request is made to the host, the time-to-connect is measured and a weight function is calculated to indicate how fast the IP-address was. The weight function used is

Weight function

where alpha indicates the sensitivity of the function and Delta is the connect time. If one IP-address is not reachable a penalty of x seconds is added to the weight where the penalty is a function of the error returned from the "connect" call. The next time a request is initiated to the remote host, the IP-address with the smallest weight is used.

A problem with both the host name cache and the data object cache is to detect when two URLs are equivalent. The only way this can be done internally in the Library is to canonicalize the URLs before they are compared. This has for some time been done by looking at the path segment of the URLs and remove redundant information by converting URLs like

	foo/./bar/ = foo/redundant/../bar/ = foo/bar/

The method is optimized and expanded so that also host names are canonicalized. Hence the following URLs are all recognized to be identical:

	http://www/ = http://www:80/ = http://WwW/ =
	http://www./ = http://www

However, the canonicalization does not recognize alias host names which would require that this information is stored in the cache. In order to do this, a separate resolver library must be provided as this information is normally not returned by the default resolver libraries. Also these library do not support non-blocking sockets and hence delay can not be avoided when resolving a host name. The solution is of course to write a resolver library which handles these features, and it is under consideration.

Henrik Frystyk Nielsen, libwww@w3.org,

@(#) $Id: DNSCache.html,v 1.13 1996/12/09 03:20:43 jigsaw Exp $