DNS has been around since the early 1980s, and in that time, it hasn’t really changed too much. While DNS is still used much like it was intended to, tying an IP address to a domain name, newer players in the market are trying to make it much more dynamic in order to vastly improve performance and give customers more granular control over traffic.
NSONE, a startup based in New York City, is the newest entrant to the DNS market. NSONE was founded by former Voxel employees who transitioned to Internap after it acquired the hosting company in 2012. Kris Beevers, Alex Vayl and Jonathan Sullivan talked about creating a new managed DNS company for two years before it became a reality in 2013.
NSONE has signed some notable customers since then, including imgur, LearnVest, and Ubiquity Hosting.
“It’s not like just anybody can jump in and start developing a revolutionary DNS platform,” Alex Vayl, co-founder and SVP business development at NSONE says. “[Beevers] has experience in related products and I think you need that type of person with that experience to even start coming up with products like this.”
DNS Industry: Good Platforms, but Little Innovation
Vayl says that the DNS industry has been stagnant for some time with bigger companies, like Dyn and UltraDNS for example, not having “any real competition for many, many years.” And while they “have solid platforms”, they haven’t necessarily had to “innovate or push the market further” because of this.
Kevin Romani, NSONE’s VP of sales, joined the company in March, and initially met with the NSONE team to try to talk them out of starting a DNS company. Romani said he was running sales at AdStack at the time.
“I was looking for a new opportunity and was actually introduced to NSONE when I tried to talk them out of building a DNS company,” Romani says. “In the end they ended up convincing me to join them when it really looked like they were building a new product and something that could compete in the marketplace.”
Ability to Mix-and-Match Algorithms with Filter Chain Sets NSONE Apart
What makes NSONE different, according to Vayl and Romani, is the unique algorithms it uses to route traffic. Filter Chain allows NSONE customers to combine these algorithms and is a patented technology exclusive to NSONE.
“Filter Chain basically allows us to put together little algorithms and you can stack them and prioritize them in whatever order you want,” Vayl explains. “An example of an algorithm would be simply ‘up’. An ‘up’ algorithm looks at the different IP addresses you gave us, and if any of the IP addresses you gave us are not up, that means your server in New York might be down, for example. We detect that and we automatically stop sending traffic there. You can combine that with other algorithms we have. One is geotargeting, where we can automatically from a database detect where the user is based and send them to the closest server to them.”
“Other companies can do some of this stuff, the real difference with us is that we let you combine and create new rules that just aren’t possible with our competitors,” Vayl says.
Level of Sophistication Suited to Global Companies
Of course, the granular control means that NSONE isn’t necessarily for everyone. It mostly targets companies with multiple data centers that require global server load balancing.
“What’s interesting about what we do and the customers we can serve is that we have a level of sophistication that the average DNS consumer doesn’t need, that maybe only the upper 5-10 percent of the market would leverage fully,” Romani says. “At the same time we can still do a great job doing what we call static DNS, where you’re not doing a lot of the traffic routing.”
Vayl admits that the learning curve to using NSONE is “pretty steep,” but says the company has developed a couple of things to help smooth the transition for new customers, including a white-glove service and offering all paying customers 24/7 customer support.
“We’ve had customers come to us and say, ‘we have these IP addresses, I want to route traffic like this, can you guys implement for me?’,” he says. “We will actually configure everything for them or give them an example and they can use that example to put together further rules. It’s super easy, even for someone not super technical like myself, but if you want to get deeper and start to put together really complex algorithms, we’re here to help all of our customers.”
Romani says that still, for a lot of people, DNS is viewed as a commodity.
“It’s kind of a given that you can plug-in the name of the website you want to go to and get there,” Romani says. “Being able to provide that is very inexpensive for most people, so really when you’re building a managed DNS provider and new company to really bring new technology to the space, you’re for the most part targeting the top-end of the market. You’re looking at the largest web presences and you’re looking at feature sets that they would need and they could use.”
Aside from companies in verticals such as ecommerce, internet 2.0 and ad tech, hosting providers are also a target market, according to Romani.
“Hosting companies are going to have all types of different customers and their customers might want some different failover type solutions, they might want to do some routing of traffic based on geographic regions and targeting,” he says. “We can do a really good job of helping hosting companies’ clients route their traffic more effectively.”
Distributed Architecture Requires DNS Innovation
As cloud has evolved, the architecture behind software and platforms has also changed, with architecture being a lot more distributed than it was 5 or 6 years ago, Vayl says.
“There was never really a need for DNS to have this kind of logic behind it,” Vayl says. “If you look back 10 years, how many companies had infrastructure in different parts of the world? Probably only the top 20, top 50 of those companies, maybe banks, and organizations like that. Now even startups are building redundant, global infrastructure.”
“Before it was all about latency – and latency is still important – we built a super solid network with PoPs around the world. But latency isn’t the be all and end all anymore; it’s all about making the right decision with your DNS and being able to send your users to the right place.”
NSONE plans to continue to add to its product in the coming months, and introduced 2-factor authentication to its portal earlier this week.