Akamai content determined by DNS cache location

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I've always wondered how the server determination of Akamai works. I thought it was interesting today to find out that Akamai decides which servers to allocate to your query based on the network location of your DNS cache.

For example, one of the more common sites on Akamai is download.microsoft.com.

If I look this up on a Global Dial connection, I get the following:

$ dig download.microsoft.com
download.microsoft.com. 2653 IN CNAME download.microsoft.com.nsatc.net.
download.microsoft.com.nsatc.net. 242 IN CNAME main.dl.ms.akadns.net.
main.dl.ms.akadns.net. 139 IN CNAME intl.dl.ms.akadns.net.
intl.dl.ms.akadns.net. 139 IN CNAME dl.ms.d4p.net.
dl.ms.d4p.net. 4808 IN CNAME dl.ms.georedirector.akadns.net.
dl.ms.georedirector.akadns.net. 2653 IN CNAME a767.ms.akamai.net.
a767.ms.akamai.net. 11 IN A 63.110.246.49
a767.ms.akamai.net. 11 IN A 63.110.246.57

Now, checking those IP addresses:

$ whois 63.110.246.9
WS/Akamai Technologies/Akamai Technologies UU-63-110-246-D6 (NET-63-110-246-0-1)
63.110.246.0 - 63.110.246.255
MCI Communications Services, Inc. d/b/a Verizon Business UUNET63 (NET-63-64-0-0-1)
63.64.0.0 - 63.127.255.255

They appear to belong to Akamai themselves and if I traceroute, it looks like they are in the US over the Verizon (alter) network:

traceroute 63.110.246.9
traceroute to 63.110.246.9 (63.110.246.9), 64 hops max, 52 byte packets
1 192.168.40.1 (192.168.40.1) 4.349 ms 1.831 ms 1.355 ms
2 202-74-181-1.adsl.dynamic.globaldial.com (202.74.181.1) 27.600 ms 43.517 ms 29.403 ms
3 fastethernet-12-1-0.gw1.per1.alter.net (203.166.42.181) 28.868 ms 28.403 ms 29.271 ms
4 100.at-3-0-1.xl1.per1.alter.net (210.80.32.93) 29.494 ms 31.256 ms 30.071 ms
5 0.so-1-2-0.xt3.syd4.alter.net (210.80.33.209) 88.927 ms 101.863 ms 87.001 ms
6 0.so-1-3-0.ir1.lax12.alter.net (210.80.48.125) 424.614 ms 253.270 ms 360.704 ms
7 0.so-5-0-0.il1.lax9.alter.net (152.63.48.65) 254.962 ms 306.958 ms 307.404 ms
8 0.so-7-0-0.xl3.lax15.alter.net (152.63.112.53) 307.164 ms 255.942 ms 358.531 ms
9 tengige0-6-4-0.gw4.lax15.alter.net (152.63.114.217) 306.993 ms
tengige0-6-0-0.gw4.lax15.alter.net (152.63.114.205) 283.833 ms
tengige0-6-4-0.gw4.lax15.alter.net (152.63.114.217) 497.190 ms
10 63.110.246.9 (63.110.246.9) 255.783 ms 356.314 ms 255.090 ms

Now, as there are definitely Akamai caches in Australia, I can only assume that this choice of Akamai servers is done on the basis of Global Dial peering with Verizon.

Doing the same lookup at different ISP yields different results (all of the CNAMEs are the same though, so for the sake of brevity, I'll only show the records for a767.ms.akamai.net):

iiNet (ns1.iinet.net.au):

a767.ms.akamai.net. 20 IN A 203.215.26.9
a767.ms.akamai.net. 20 IN A 203.215.26.16

Both of which are iiNet IP addresses.

iPrimus (nc2.pth.iprimus.net.au):

a767.ms.akamai.net. 1 IN A 203.134.38.240
a767.ms.akamai.net. 1 IN A 203.134.38.241

Both of which are iPrimus IPs.

Eftel (ns1.eftel.com.au):

a767.ms.akamai.net. 20 IN A 118.214.190.25
a767.ms.akamai.net. 20 IN A 118.214.190.49

These IPs belong to Akamai Singapore. Does Eftel peer with Optus?

So all this goes to show that by simply changing the DNS cache I use on my PC, I can drastically change where my Akamai traffic comes from.

PS. Does anyone else find it strange that quite a few ISP authoritative servers also do recursive lookups?

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most authoritative servers are slaved to hidden masters. in an ideal world they would be separate for poisoning but rarely are.

where you resolve hosts at and where you are are vastly different. akamai is returning responses to them based on IP address of the nameserver asking them, which 99% of the time is a referral, and not the IP address of the actual enduser. this is in fact how cdn mapping scripts operate, by manipulating the source address in question for dnsrr queries.

You can run into issues where your ISP's netblock used for their own services occupies a different cidr than the one used for actual customers. You report an issue, the ISP looks into it, sees no problem, and fails to resolve it because they do not understand how third parties pay attention to source address to modify the return path, via CDN or many other mechanisms.