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Options for DNS in networking address growing challenges

A need for modern DNS in networking has grown out of increased cloud use and distributed applications. Now, vendors are offering these services for internal enterprise use.

For the first 25 years or so of the internet's existence, the original domain name system, or DNS, could locate internet domain names and translate them into IP addresses to quickly connect users to remote hosts, eliminating the need to keep the equivalent of IP phone books on hand. Many free, open source DNS tools worked well when webpages were largely static, and the protocol created in 1983 by Internet Hall of Famer Paul Mockapetris could handle the load.

But the growth of cloud-based services, microservices and distributed applications has led to the need for modern approaches to DNS in networking. Organizations face new DNS challenges in managing applications built in components and hosted in different locations that all need to be linked together, according to IDC senior analyst Brandon Butler.

The global DDI market, which is made up of three core network services that enable communications over IP networks -- DNS, Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol and IP Address Management Protocol --  is expected to grow from $690 million in 2016 to $3.08 billion by 2023, according to market research consultancy Stratistics MRC. Cloud computing, the use of dynamic applications and mobility are expected to play a large role in DDI market growth -- particularly in North America.

As networks increase in complexity, many vendors are offering more new approaches to DNS in networking to better deliver distributed, dynamic applications that are created by DevOps teams through a mix of public and private clouds, microservices platforms, containers, content delivery networks, and even on-premises data centers, Butler said. Organizations are moving beyond the experimental use of new platforms into automated use of technologies like cloud computing, big data analytics and social platforms, he added.

"These technologies put a tremendous strain on the network, as does hosting applications in a variety of places. And DNS is a foundational technology needed to support the new platforms," Butler said.

Many last-generation DNS products were built on open source DNS software called BIND, or Berkeley Internet Name Domain, which is great for traditional applications that are hosted in one place and stay there. "BIND isn't as good at managing DNS traffic when you're using new cloud-based platforms, microservices and applications techniques," Butler said.

Private DNS offers licensed enterprise software

Bucking the software-as-a-service trend, NS1, a New York-based DNS and traffic management company, recently introduced a software-based, next-generation DNS networking product for enterprises in the form of Private DNS. An offshoot of its cloud-based, managed DNS service used by internet and cloud companies, NS1's Private DNS sells enterprises recurring monthly software licenses to self-host NS1's DNS software on their own premises to automate and modernize their infrastructure.

These technologies put a tremendous strain on the network, as does hosting applications in a variety of places. And DNS is a foundational technology needed to support the new platforms.
Brandon Butlersenior analyst at IDC

"The broad pattern is enterprises are seeking to modernize the stacks inside their environments, as opposed to shifting everything to the cloud. Whether for regulatory or compliance or even technology reasons, many enterprises will always have hybrid cloud and internal infrastructures," said NS1 co-founder and CEO, Kris Beevers.

NS1's Private DNS was designed to offer organizations scalable, automated traffic routing using an API-first approach, because the same technologies used in the cloud are being applied inside the enterprise, Beevers said. Private DNS can be hosted by organizations that want to modernize their application infrastructure. Beevers described it as offering vendor-agnostic DNS load balancing and service discovery at cloud scale.

NS1 developed Private DNS because customers who used the vendor's technology in the cloud asked if they could use the same technology inside their own environments, he added. "We've taken the same technology that runs our global cloud platform, packaged it and delivered it as licensed software into the enterprise environment for customers to host themselves for their internal use cases."

Many modern DNS technologies have been available publicly, but NS1 is one of the first companies to release this new DNS technology for organizations that want to use it for their internal systems, IDC's Butler said.

In a lot of ways, DNS is sometimes an afterthought, but it really is a foundational technology that enables everything else.
Brandon Butlersenior analyst at IDC

"Typically, you would want private DNS for a large internet system or one that's not exposed to your public DNS system for security reasons. If your public DNS gets breached, you wouldn't want hackers to have access into your private internal network," he said.

New DNS services and systems need to be automated, flexible and scalable. A DNS service needs to be able to respond to API calls as they come in. That's what NS1's platform and some others do, Butler said. "NS1 uses data to drive DNS responses using network telemetry data, and it's able to dynamically respond in the most efficient way."

NS1 is able to use data to better serve the DNS, and it gives engineers control over how much traffic goes to which site, as well as offering increased levels of visibility from a DNS perspective in terms of what's happening in your network.

NS1's products have the DNS services built to be aware of network status that can pick the most efficient answer to DNS queries coming in. "That just wasn't done even five years ago," Butler said, "not even on the public side."

Who needs modern DNS for networking?

Organizations that have complicated environments and a need for more security offer an opportunity to modern DNS vendors because many applications cross several different locations, Butler said.

"Over time, there's going to be more market clarity around the need for private DNS systems to support new technologies. In a lot of ways, DNS is sometimes an afterthought, but it really is a foundational technology that enables everything else," he added.

A variety of vendors in the DNS appliance or virtual appliance market include Armor, BlueCat Networks, Cisco, EfficientIP, F5, Incognito Software Systems, Infoblox, Men & Mice, Microsoft, NS1 and SolarWinds.

This was last published in July 2018

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