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October 7th, 2021

Beginnings

Changing jobs in 2021 is not the same as changing jobs in the Before Times. I don't have a new commute; I just stumble down the same stairs every morning. I don't need a new ID card to get into my office. I stand at the same desk, in front of the same monitor. The coffee is still great, if I do say so myself.

My new role at Neustar is Principal DNS Technologist in the Security Solutions division. Those who have been too slow to avoid hearing my opinions in various conference bars and restaurants over the past couple of decades will perhaps be thinking to themselves that that sounds like more of the same too. The DNS is surely still the DNS, right? Security is still something you want more of.

Well, it turns out that Neustar is a little different from other places, in a few interesting ways:

First, there's the history. Neustar is the modern home of UltraDNS, the original enterprise DNS service. That pedigree is not just a marketing hook; it represents two decades of experience dealing with critical infrastructure for customers who really don't want to be down. That history breeds a certain kind of pragmatism that comes across in every department I'm introduced to. It speaks to a focus on the customer.

That pragmatism is also reflected in the edge platform architecture, which is the second big difference. There are some places where such platforms are jealously guarded kingdoms, where change is feared and heretics are not tolerated. Neustar is not that place. The current service edge is high-capacity, designed to handle over 9 trillion DNS transactions per day, fifty times the current steady-state capacity. It makes the previous, high-capacity service edge look small, and this pattern can be expected to continue into the future, since we know that no single upgrade is ever enough. Decoupling the platform from the services like this is possible because, at Neustar, distribution of services is metadata and metadata is fungible. The platform doesn't really matter because as long as it’s big enough, the services don't care where they run. The ability to reimagine the way that services are deployed globally and to make changes with confidence is the essence of service agility.

That agility in how services are deployed leads neatly to the third clear difference, and this is a big one: Neustar's approach to application security. The agility in service delivery dovetails elegantly into the network security platform, because you can't hope to cope with attacks you haven't seen yet without being able to think on your feet and adapt. And the network security platform is impressive—it's not just there to defend UltraDNS. It's relied upon by web-scale services across the world to keep their businesses online and stable.

The ability to deal with attack traffic at massive scale and the flexibility to apply those mitigations when and where they are needed closes the circle of my first few weeks of exploration—we're back to the pragmatism that comes from experience.

So that’s the little difference at Neustar — a little difference that is a big deal when it comes to keeping customers safe. Operational security isn't just an exercise in risk assessment. It's a routine aspect of service delivery. Just another day (not) at the office. You get really good at things that you do every day.

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