NS1 Boosts Intelligent DNS with Pulsar Cloud Routing Engine

The closest data center isn't always the fastest data center. NS1 aims for intelligent DNS routing.

By  | Posted Oct 15, 2015
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There was a time when all an organization needed to manage DNS was an open-source BIND name server. Those days are likely now in the past, as globally distributed deployments are the norm and cloud adoption is growing. Startup NS1 aims to help solve the challenge with its new Pulsar service, which provides a cloud routing engine to help make intelligent DNS decisions that benefit from multiple sources of network telemetry.

Kris Beevers, co-founder and CEO of NS1, explained to Enterprise Networking Planet that it's a common sense idea that DNS should know which data center is providing a given website or piece of content most effectively and then be able to direct users appropriately.

NS1 got started in 2013 as a stack to help organizations make routing decisions.

"What we have done mostly so far has focused on infrastructure telemetry," Beevers said. "So information about whether servers are up and down as well as how much bandwidth is being used."

NS1's current client base includes a number of well known properties, including Imgur and MaxCDN. From a DNS technology perspective, NS1 is not using BIND, but rather has developed its own DNS server.

The new Pulsar service goes beyond server telemetry to take data at the edges of the Internet from end-users about what they're seeing with respect to things that NS1 is routing to. Pulsar is able to ingest and then act on that end-user data.

"If we or our customers can find a way to take measurements from end-users, with respect to their infrastructure, we almost don't care what is being measured, as long as it's interesting from a routing perspective," Beevers said.

Pulsar makes use of embedded JavaScript tags to help enable the end-user monitoring capabilities. For example, with the embedded JavaScript, the script can notice if a user is using Verizon in New York and then ask the browser what the response time is for the web server located in Virginia.

"So the JavaScript tag is embedded in the customer's website, so there is awareness from the customer that they are asking their users questions and then sharing the performance data with NS1," Beever said. "So there is no privacy issue as no personal information is collected."

The system provides real-time information about response time to servers. So rather than just routing users to the closest data center based on geography, users can be routed to application servers based on performance.

"So we suck in a large stream of measurements all the time and we build routing tables with it," Beevers said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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