How Go Daddy Keeps 52 Million Domains Running

A look inside one of the newer server rooms at a Go Daddy data center in Phoenix. (Photo: Rich Miller)

PHOENIX – You may know Go Daddy primarily for its edgy and humorous Super Bowl ads. But when it comes to the Internet infrastructure supporting the 52 million domain names it manages, Go Daddy is all business.

“We handle 10 billion DNS queries a day,” said Go Daddy CEO Warren Adelman. “A good chunk of the Internet resolves because of us.”

Go Daddy is best known for selling domains, but is also one of the world’s largest providers of web hosting services, as well as the security certificates that enable e-commerce on millions of web sites. To keep those services online and running smoothly, Go Daddy operates a global network of data centers and points of presence (PoPs).

Focused on Phoenix

The core of Go Daddy’s infrastructure is focused on the Phoenix region, where it operates three major data centers, as well as network operating centers that monitor its global operations. The company also has data centers in Los Angeles, Chicago and Ashburn, Virginia, along with international facilities in Amsterdam and Singapore.

Data Center Knowledge recently went inside the company’s huge primary data center in Phoenix, and had a chance to discuss Go Daddy’s  approach to its infrastructure. The access marked a change, as Go Daddy has historically said little about its data centers. It’s part of a concerted effort to present a fuller picture of the company’s services.

“I think we helped popularize the domain name,” said Adelman. “Everyone knows us from domains, but less so from hosting. We’re the world’s largest paid hosting company, and we need to let people know about that.”

Go Daddy currently hosts more than 5 million web sites on 35,000 servers in its data centers. The company has more than 23 petabytes of data housed on its storage systems, and processes more than 350 million emails every day.

A History of Growth

The company’s infrastructure has come a long way. Go Daddy got its start 1997, when software entrepreneur Bob Parsons created Jomax Technologies. Parsons had retired in the Phoenix area after selling accounting software maker Parsons Technology to Intuit for $64 million in 1994, but wanted to get back into the software game. In 2000 the company, now renamed Go Daddy, became a Internet registrar and began selling domain names at substantially lower prices than the leading registrars.

“We started with servers living in the closet at Bob’s ranch,” recalls Go Daddy Chief Technology Officer Wayne Thayer. “Then we got our first data center in Mesa, started with a couple racks, and just grew and grew.”

Go Daddy’s low-priced offerings proved popular with domain buyers. By late 2004, Go Daddy was the dominant domain registrar and a growing force in the hosting business. The company’s growth kicked into high gear in 2005, fueled by a racy Super Bowl commercial featuring model Candice Michelle. Traffic poured into the web site.

Almost overnight, the company’s market share of new domain purchases jumped from 16 percent to 25 percent. That’s when the company realized it would have to expand its infrastructure.

“We got to a point where we needed our own owned-and-operated data center,” said Adelman. “We found this great location in Phoenix, and scooped it up for a great price. We just started building it out in pods, and that’s become a primary facility for us.”

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. jim

    interesting read. thx

  2. AJ

    24 servers per 42 U rack is horrible density especially since they use mostly 1U servers.

  3. Denver Jimmy

    AJ, if they put twice as many servers in a rack resulting in half as many racks in a room, would you have made the same comment? While servers per rack is very interesting, Watts per sqft is what really matters.

  4. Interesting post. I had always wondered how GoDaddy got it's start. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Great post, It's hard to even imagine the amount of domains godaddy goes through each day.

  6. This is super fascinating. I wonder if more transparency about this company will start coming out. I'm always interested in stories about hosting companies, GD has been around for a minutes. Hats off to them.

  7. Very interesting, In light of the recent attack on GD I don't think their security is doing very well TBH.

  8. Will be interesting to see the analysis of the Godaddy outage. Was it an attack, a failure or both...

  9. Joseph

    How ironic that as most people read this article now, is "experienced intermittent outages" which is drastically affecting my company's online business right now. We have many upset customers because of this now.

  10. godaddyisajoke

    godaddy is out of their league. they have already proven any monkey can own a ton of domains. in their case most of them are just cyber squatters. they brag about the 5mil web sites they host but most of them are using the crappy godaddy interface which is pitiful an ugly. i would rather start smoking than buy a domain from godaddy.

  11. but why domains at GoDaddy are still so costly??

  12. elsmurfadiablo

    @godaddyisajoke: You just proved a monkey can type...

  13. “We handle 10 billion DNS queries a day,” said Go Daddy CEO Warren Adelman. “A good chunk of the Internet resolves because of us.” Eh, the company I work for, handles 40+ billion DNS queries per day, and we've had zero downtime in 6+ years. Nice try GoDaddy. =)

  14. I had no idea how large this company is. Whenever I've needed help, it's always been easy to get through and the folks always seemed so laid back and helpful.....I had a picture in my minds eye of just a folksy atmosphere.

  15. majoritywhip

    They built an oven in the middle of the desert. Brilliant !

  16. "We handle 10 billion DNS queries a day," that is absolutely crazy! The internet has really taken off in a big way. I wonder what that figure is today, since this post is coming up to a year old.

  17. GoDaddy did well in US and started expansion in Europe. Unfortunately they do not disclose their server location

  18. They have an interesting business model. Since they recently made the decision to remove all the $1 domain promotions they ran for years, it will be interesting to see how it affects their bottom line over the next few years.