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Dyn Alternatives and Competitors

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Director of Site Reliability Engineering at a media company with 1,001-5,000 employees
Real User
Filter Chain allows us to implement reliable DNS load balancing in a straightforward manner

Pros and Cons

  • "The fact that it's an API-first platform for DNS and application traffic management is one of the reasons we looked into NS1. We use it for a lot of automation and metrics gathering and it's been great."
  • "I would like to see the UI updated to allow me to do finer searches. I would also like to have the ability to get reports that can sort based on various metrics. For example, I would like to be able to say, "Show me the top 10 records by total queries" in an easy-to-digest format."

What is our primary use case?

We use NS1 to serve our public DNS and we have around 500 domains that we service through it. It is the public resolver for our website and various other entities we own, and it has been pretty good.

The solution is hosted by NS1. 

How has it helped my organization?

We have done some DNS load balancing through NS1 and, using the Filter Chain offering, it has been very straightforward. That's what really sets them apart from their competitors. It's very simple to do and very powerful, reliable, and accurate.

In addition, we haven't had any issues at all with uptime when there is a DDoS attack. When we have been the subject of an attack, NS1 has been up and stable for us, as well as performant. On top of that, it has been able to provide us with pretty good details of what kinds of attacks we have been subject to and what NS1 was doing at the time. Even if we are undergoing DDoS attacks, NS1 will still serve DNS for us.

We have also seen an improvement in our DNS response times compared to previous vendors we used that had had some churn on their response times.

NS1 has also reduced DNS maintenance work for us. Being an e-commerce platform, every millisecond counts for a customer, and we definitely struggled there. We do a lot of testing and monitoring of response times and, in other solutions, we were seeing that our DNS responses would be flapping from time to time, meaning sometimes they'd be really fast and sometimes they'd be really slow. In a dashboard or graph view, you'd see spikes, a screen full of mountains, things going up and down, up and down. But NS1 gives us a nice flat line, because it's always performant and fast and that's what we want to see. Every millisecond we can shave off is better for business.

We have also saved time when it comes to manual processes because NS1 is API-first. That means we can automate records, as needed, as part of other processes. And from time to time, as part of troubleshooting, they have a nice feature where you can see if there is a record or multiple records that get an abnormal amount of queries against them. You can see that granularly, down to the actual record view. That is something you can't do on a lot of platforms. The insight we get is really good compared to other solutions.

Another benefit is connected to the fact that we have some FTP servers that partners of ours use to send and receive files. Those servers are fronting several backend servers, although the partner wouldn't know. They connect to one endpoint and, from their point of view, it's just one server, but it's actually several servers. With the other solutions we've had, if maintenance was needed on a backend server, the partner would notice that the server was down. With NS1's Filter Chains and health checks and monitoring all built-in, we can take servers like that out of service and the partner would never know because NS1 just routes them to a healthy server. That kind of stuff is extremely important for us.

What is most valuable?

  • Ease of use 
  • Stability - We haven't had any issues at all with the service.

Also, the fact that it's an API-first platform for DNS and application traffic management is one of the reasons we looked into NS1. We use it for a lot of automation and metrics gathering and it's been great.

Its real-time telemetry and ecosystem of integrations are very easy to use. We haven't taken advantage of much of that, but the fact that we know those capabilities are there, and that they're pretty straightforward, is key. We have done a few things using their routing protocols that are provided as part of the service and that has been really nice. We can actually do automation around that as needed.

What needs improvement?

I would like to see the UI updated to allow me to do finer searches. I would also like to have the ability to get reports that can sort based on various metrics. For example, I would like to be able to say, "Show me the top 10 records by total queries" in an easy-to-digest format. If I wanted to do that today, given that we have 500 domains, I'd have to go into every single domain and browse through it to see what is getting hit the most. That kind of filtering functionality would help because our licensing model is based on the number of queries we serve per month. If something goes hog-wild, I want to be able to easily find what that is and then react to it.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using NS1 Managed DNS for about four years. 

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

If there are scalability issues, they haven't been apparent to us as a customer. As a system engineer, I can empathize and I'm sure they have some internally, but we haven't seen them. The scalability helps meet SLAs and customers’ demands, without adding complexity.

Every customer who hits our website is using NS1, so that is up to millions per day. Internally, it's mostly system engineers who use it to add or remove records and there are about a dozen of them, possibly more.

In terms of increasing use of NS1, we're looking into their internal DNS and DHCP solutions. That would be a complicated migration for us, and we are currently in multi-year agreements with other vendors. The goal would be to start slowly migrating over to NS1 for all of our DNS and DHCP needs, but that will take a few years.

How are customer service and support?

We have a dedicated success manager. We don't need a lot from him, but every two or three months he checks in to see if we have any large needs. We also meet with him once every few months just to touch base.

Their technical support is really quick to respond to concerns. They communicate well and provide feedback that's not only technical but easy to understand if you're not technical. They do a great job.

How would you rate customer service and support?


Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We've used other tools like this over the years, obviously, being a publicly exposed e-commerce platform, and we've had some struggles with them. NS1 has been really smooth for us. Most recently we used Dyn DNS. They were purchased by Oracle and, predictably, their offering went downhill after that. Dyn was cumbersome, at best, to get the stats and reports that we needed, and to steer traffic as needed. With NS1, it has been extremely straightforward.

The clincher that made us switch to NS1, for me, was actually talking to their CEO at a conference in New York, in 2017. He gave a presentation on their ability to withstand large attacks. He is a systems engineer/architect/programmer at heart. He knew the tech side of the industry and that gave me the confidence I needed that he actually knew how to solve some of the problems that we were facing.

We then went through some stress tests with NS1 and it was much more performant than other vendors that we had done trials with.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was straightforward. There wasn't a whole lot to it. I had to learn the semantics that are specific to the system, but once I did that it was really straightforward.

The deployment took a few phone calls and meetings with our onboarding team and engineers, to go over the scope. The work itself was really pretty straightforward and took just a couple days.

Our implementation strategy was to sync the main zones we care about, like our main ".com" domain, which is a big zone where a lot of our traffic comes. We added the NS1 name servers to that zone, in addition to the Dyn name servers. That meant a customer going to our website would get served through Dyn or NS1 or sometimes they'd bounce around. Once we saw that NS1 was receiving traffic, we let it bake for a couple of days and then we started removing the Dyn name servers, to the point where there was only NS1 left. There was no downtime when we migrated to NS1 from Dyn.

The solution's automation has saved our staff work. As I mentioned, we host about 500 domains and serve DNS publicly through NS1. We were doing a lot of that in-house on our own infrastructure and appliances, through Infoblox. The thought of migrating all of that to another platform was kind of harrowing. But with the NS1 API, it actually took us maybe four hours to do all the work. That kind of stuff is really helpful when you're an assistant engineer and you have multitasking upon multitasking happening. I was thinking that project would take two months, but it took one day to do.

What about the implementation team?

We did not use a third-party.

What was our ROI?

Our ROI comes from the fact that it has been stable and we've had to spend less time on it than we did with third-party integrations and other solutions that we've purchased. It's more of a set-it-and-forget-it type of platform, which is extremely valuable.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

NS1's pricing is much more aggressive than its competitors in the market and you get more value out of what you pay for it.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We went through trials with Dyn, of course, because we were their customer. We had also done some trials with Infoblox, which is another of our vendors, but that was where we were hosting the DNS ourselves and using their appliances. And we did some trials with Akamai, which is our CDN provider—the biggest one on the internet—and they have their own DNS offering.

But NS1 outperformed all of them in terms of the ability to administer it and the actual response times of queries and the propagation of DNS records out to the greater internet. It was much faster, generally speaking, in broadcasting those changes. A DNS has a TTL, a time to live. If you change a record or add a record, it can take up to a certain amount of time to propagate throughout the world, which makes sense because the world is one big connected internet. Akamai was taking a few hours to propagate and NS1 was taking just seconds or minutes to propagate. That was key for us. If we have to make changes because there's a routing issue or an internet issue somewhere in the world, we want to make sure that we can serve traffic. If we need to make some changes on our DNS, NS1 publishes them right away.

What other advice do I have?

If someone says they don't need to spend money on a solution like this because they have a free cloud provider or basic DNS, I would say you get what you pay for and that you're also paying for the time and energy you have to put in, yourself, to do the work.

Perhaps one of the biggest wins for NS1 is that people don't readily know their name at times. That means they're doing a good job and people don't even think about who our DNS provider is because it just works.

I would say use NS1, without hesitation.

Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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