Take two: Nominum tries hosted DNS

Nominum Inc. is hoping that the second time is the charm in the outsourced DNS market, as the maker of high-end DNS software announces a hosted service.

Redwood City, Calif.-based Nominum had a managed DNS services operation earlier this decade but sold it to rival UltraDNS in 2002. Nominum has since focused on its DNS and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server software, counting among its customers many of the world’s largest carriers including Verizon, Sprint and NTT Communications.

The vendor had re-entered the outsourced DNS market with the announcement of SKYE, a separate business unit that will offer its software as a cloud-based service to smaller ISPs and enterprises.

Jon Shalowitz, vice president and general manager of SKYE, says the new venture’s biggest differentiator is the underlying Nominum software, which is higher performing and more reliable than open source alternatives such as Berkeley Internet Name Domain (BIND).

“This is the same software running in the top 100 ISPs around the world,” Shalowitz says. “It handles two to three trillion transactions or queries per day. We’re leveraging that same technology in a cloud model.”

SKYE’s main competitor will be UltraDNS, now owned by Neustar.

Rodney Joffe, senior vice president and senior technologist at Neustar, says hosted DNS is a big enough market to support multiple vendors. “Despite the fact that it’s been a pretty awful recession, we’ve continued to grow very effectively in our area of managed DNS for enterprises,” Joffe says. “There is definitely a market, and we’re nowhere near saturation.”

Nominum has set up SKYE as a separate organization, with 30 full-time employees and five data centers to run Nominum’s software.

“Enterprises need to wake up to the risks associated with ignoring their DNS and assuming that if it’s not breaking all they time [they] can ignore it,” Shalowitz says. “There are still a lot of organizations running legacy DNS and open source DNS that are fraught with vulnerabilities.”

SKYE is offering four hosted services: SKYE Core recursive DNS service; SKYE Secure authoritative (or external) DNS services; SKYE Search redirection service; and SKYE Trust, a blacklist service for malicious Web sites.

“Our target customer is anyone who has a strong Web presence: E-commerce companies, banks, anyone that has regulations for protecting data such as hospitals and healthcare companies; and any other company where breaches of personal information could be catastrophic such as credit card companies,” Shalowitz says. Nominum says the time is right for hosted DNS services because of a broader push by corporate IT departments toward cloud-based services.

“Part of the reason why cloud is becoming the rage is because of its operational benefits,” Shalowitz says. “When companies look at the cost/benefit analysis, they’d much rather have [DNS] being done by experts and run in the cloud.”

Abner Germanow, director of enterprise communications at IDC, says enterprises are realizing that DNS is a critical service and are paying more attention to it. Most of them are buying DNS appliances from vendors such as Infoblox or hosted DNS services such as the ones being offered by SKYE.

“We’ve seen a fair amount of growth in hosted DNS services,” Germanow says. “There are a whole slew of companies offering a variety of DNS services both for internal, recursive DNS services and external, authoritative services…This is something that’s clearly rising in popularity.”

Joffe said new entrants into the enterprise DNS space such as SKYE and OpenDNS, which announced an enterprise offering earlier in the month, will face difficulties if they can’t deliver top-notch service level agreements.

“Companies that have tried to get into this market have been burned not because having DNS servers and networks is that hard but because making them work in a carrier-like way is not easy,” Joffe said, adding that UltraDNS also runs its own DNS software rather than BIND. “The ability to do DNS in a really reliable way turns out to be hard.”


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