DNS Service Providers: The Wave of the Future?

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Aug 10, 2000


If UltraDNS has its way, enterprises will soon be choosing a DNS provider the way they choose an ISP. Earlier this week, the company kicked off its attempt to build a business revolutionizing something that most e-businesses rarely think about: DNS management.

If UltraDNS has its way, enterprises will soon be choosing a DNS provider the way they choose an ISP. Earlier this week, the company kicked off its attempt to build a business revolutionizing something that most e-businesses rarely think about: DNS management.

With the launch of Managed DNS Service, UltraDNS aims to provide advanced, service-based, scalable infrastructure solutions for large, global, on-demand information exchange applications. The first way it plans to accomplish this is by changing the way enterprises view the Domain Name System (DNS).

The DNS

The current DNS was deployed nearly fifteen years ago to manage the growing number of IP addresses. By the mid-1990s, however, the DNS was found to be not scaleable or reliable enough to handle the swell in traffic that came with the development of the Web (although it was a vast improvement over what existed prior -- one individual inputting all of the entries).

The cornerstone behind the current DNS was the creation of a system whereby any entity on the Internet could activate the DNS and make entries. It didn't quite work out that way, and today registrars and Internet service providers (ISPs) manage nearly 90 percent of the 18 million domains that comprise the DNS. By 2004, analysts predict that the number of distinct domains is expected to increase nearly tenfold to 150 million.

The decision of how to manage the DNS is a choice many Webmasters choose not to make, however. As a result, nearly 90 percent of DNS management in the United States is handled by service providers and registrars, according to Steve Hotz, chief technology officer for UltraDNS. By default, an e-business usually ends up with whatever DNS service its registrar is using.

UltraDNS' Beginnings

UltraDNS hopes to change this as it targets ISPs, Web hosters, content providers and distributors, domain name registrars, and e-businesses with Managed DNS Service. Managed DNS Service's technology platform is designed for implementing integrated services-based solutions to benefit organizations deploying very large and complex directory-initiated applications that must scale globally and handle a large number of time-sensitive queries.

The technology behind UltraDNS' vision was incubated at CenterGate Research Group in late 1998. UltraDNS was founded as a business the following spring. By January 2000, the fledging company had attracted nearly $8 million in venture capital from VantagePoint Venture Partners and New Enterprise Associates.

How Managed DNS Service Works

According to a study conducted by Keynote that UltraDNS commissioned, an estimated 0.65 percent of all DNS connections fail. The U.S. business-to-consumer market is expected to rake in close to $37 billion in 2000, and the combined business-to-consumer and business-to-business market to reach $6.7 trillion in 2004, according to Forrester Research. This will translate into more than mere pocket change. UltraDNS estimates that e-businesses will lose $240 million in revenue this year and $40 billion in 2004 due to failed DNS connections.

Managed DNS Service is designed to support the millions of domain currently available, according to Hotz. The current crop of DNS offerings use a DNS query algorithm to find the IP address on however many independent bind name servers are on the network. This frequently causes some queries to be resolved at suboptimal locations and thus at suboptimal speeds. Managed DNS Service on the other hand enables queries to be resolved at the closest available server location, reducing the opportunity for failure from packet loss, server failure or misconfiguration.

Managed DNS Service will be co-located across multiple backbones from Exodus and AboveNet. For the initial launch, UltraDNS has established servers in London, Australia, and Japan, as well as seven servers in the United States. Future locations under consideration include Texas, Atlanta, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Brazil, Germany, Netherlands, Austria, and Finland.

Managed DNS Service will also have a fully redundant back-up mesh, should the system ever fail completely. Data will be updated within minutes (as opposed to hours) and be available and consistent, according to Hotz.

Other key features of Managed DNS Service will be a wizard interface that enables users to set up host configurations with ease; error-checking and automation to help ensure the DNS information is correct; and advance screens that allow complex search and manipulation of DNS data.

Managed DNS Service has several pricing plans designed to accommodate its various potential customer bases. Current plans are subscription-based and vary according to usage: $49 per month for 20 domains (200 resource records) and less than 200,000 DNS queries per month; $1,399 per month for 1,000 domains and 2 million to 4 million DNS queries per month; and $13,999 per month for 1 million domains and 20 million combined DNS queries per month. An individual subscription plan will also be available starting August 15. Additional pricing information can be found on UltraDNS' site.

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