Kris Beevers is Co-founder and CEO of NS1.
A decade or so ago, if you were building an online application, chances were it lived in physical infrastructure in a single datacenter and you managed individual servers with an esoteric set of configuration files and operator knowledge. Today, all that has changed: applications are distributed across multiple service endpoints thanks to a breadth of cloud facilities, content delivery networks, deployment automation and application technologies. And along the way, the tools you use to get traffic to your application have changed.
DNS, the “phone book” of the Internet, was in the mix then as it is now, translating your domain into IP addresses and other service information – but like the rest of your infrastructure, DNS today is vastly more dynamic and is a more important tool than ever for developers and operators to understand and leverage effectively.
Today’s most advanced online properties—think Facebook or Twitter, Amazon or Google—deliver reliably good performance regardless of a user’s location and whether they’re using a laptop or a mobile device. As a result, the expectation of fast and responsive delivery of both static and interactive content has become the norm for every online application. Users are increasingly demanding and unforgiving: Amazon calculated that a slowdown in page load time of just a single second could cost it $1.6 billion in sales each year.
DNS lookup is a critical component of an application’s performance. As the entry point into an application, the need for reliable and fast DNS lookups is obvious. Importantly, as the first indication that a user is about to interact with an application, DNS also presents a powerful opportunity to manage the performance of the application by sending users to appropriate service endpoints in today’s distributed environments.
Until recently, while application architectures and other underlying infrastructure had undergone tectonic shifts, DNS itself hadn’t kept pace and had been limited to restrictive endpoint selection techniques. Tools like round-robin DNS (random endpoint selection), simple health checking (shifting traffic from failed endpoints) and simple geographic routing (attempting to send users to “nearby” endpoints) were the state of the art. In the face of modern distributed architectures, an increasingly dynamic Internet, and ever more demanding users, the need for more advanced DNS tools has rapidly emerged.
Modern DNS platforms, like those of today’s most advanced Managed DNS providers, enable far more complex application- and network-aware endpoint selection by leveraging real-time telemetry about infrastructure and the Internet’s health to enable active, intelligent traffic management. These platforms optimize performance by measuring and minimizing latency or packet loss between users and service endpoints, or by maximizing bandwidth throughput, or even by managing completely application-specific measures of performance. They also enable developers to leverage infrastructure more efficiently and effectively by routing around outages, and by enabling cloudbursting or shedding load to meet spikes in demand. Today’s advanced DNS platforms make automated traffic management decisions that are driven by data—often application-specific—that is ingested, aggregated and acted on in real time.
Key Benefits of Modern DNS Platforms
Today’s next-generation DNS solutions offer intelligence and capabilities that address the challenges of modern application delivery far beyond traditional in-house or legacy solutions. Modern solutions can be leveraged in a variety of models, from high-performance, globally distributed SaaS-model Managed DNS networks to fully managed, on-premise deployments. Increasingly, an organization’s DNS systems are tightly coupled across a number of use cases for single-pane-of-glass manageability, visibility and automation of DNS and traffic management across a company’s entire infrastructure.
Beyond the intelligent traffic management capabilities and flexible deployment models of modern DNS platforms, there are a number of other motivations for shifting from a legacy DNS technology and mindset:
- Data feed integrations: Today’s most advanced DNS platforms enable you to connect your existing monitoring and analytics tools to feed data that can be used to drive intelligent traffic management decisions.
- Telemetry-driven traffic management: Beyond feeds from your existing tools, some modern DNS platforms directly incorporate their own deep monitoring and data gathering technologies, and gather telemetry straight from your systems and users to drive routing decisions.
- Visibility: In addition to acting on data, modern platforms give you great insight into your DNS, with real-time analytics about your DNS traffic and visibility into the performance of your infrastructure with respect to your audience.
- DevOps integrations: Today’s DNS technologies are addressable through full-featured APIs and DevOps tool integrations, enabling complex automation suitable for the elasticity and dynamism of a modern application infrastructure stack.
DNS isn’t what it used to be. Far beyond the basic “phone book” of the Internet, today’s DNS platforms enable application developers to leverage this ubiquitous protocol to manage and optimize application delivery and performance. As infrastructure and applications continue to evolve, and the performance and reliability demands of users become more strict, today’s DNS providers will push the envelope in enabling developers and operators to manage their traffic and optimize their delivery.
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