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April 27th, 2018

UltraDNS: An Original Internet Icon Turns 20

The next time you type in google.com or amazon.com and a web page instantly appears, you might want to take a moment to thank the domain name system (DNS), the technology that makes that connection possible. This June will mark the 20th anniversary of UltraDNS, a revolutionary DNS solution that was among the first in its field to feature Anycast technology.

Before UltraDNS, DNS requests were primarily routed through unicast technology, which meant they could only go to one DNS server, even if that server were on the other side of the world. With UltraDNS and Anycast technology, DNS requests could now go to the closest DNS server, which led to faster website responses and generally better performance.

What seems obvious today wasn’t 20 years ago, when UltraDNS founder Rodney Joffe proposed using Anycast technology for DNS. Joffe realized that performance and reliability on the World Wide Web would become increasingly important as more businesses began creating their own websites.

From the beginning, UltraDNS was designed to be different. Instead of using existing DNS software, as most DNS products did, it used its own proprietary code. This made a big difference in Fall 2002, when a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack was launched against the Internet’s root DNS servers. Nine of the 13 root DNS servers that managed DNS requests on the Internet went down during the attack. Four of those servers, however, were running UltraDNS and kept running. The key to UltraDNS’ success during the event was the unique, built-in DDoS mitigation technology that Joffe and his team had developed as part of their proprietary system.

In 2006, UltraDNS was acquired by Neustar, a global leader in Internet routing and security. Joffe continued to lead the UltraDNS team at Neustar, adding new capabilities along the way, from SiteProtect™ — the first DDoS mitigation solution as a service, which grew out of UltraDNS’ earlier DDoS capabilities — to DNS Shield, the industry’s first completely insulated DNS network.

It’s a truism that it only takes 20% of the effort to get 80% of the result. You might wonder why Neustar continues to go the extra mile in making UltraDNS the most secure, reliable DNS platform in the industry. The answer is simple: Cyber criminals are trying 100% of the time to create better, smarter and stronger attacks.

When cyber criminals succeed, the stakes can be very high. In 2016, one of the world’s largest DDoS attacks took down the DNS servers for many of the world’s leading online domains, including Twitter, Spotify, Xbox Live and Airbnb. Fortunately, UltraDNS customers weren’t impacted by the attack, but it served as a powerful reminder that DNS servers remained an attractive and vulnerable target for cyber criminals.

Security and innovation are an important part of the DNA of UltraDNS. We’re very proud of the fact that some of the world’s most recognizable dot-com names have relied on UltraDNS for years to help them build their business and preserve the integrity of their brand. They’re the reason that we don’t stop worrying about what’s next. In fact, as you read this, SiteProtect will have become the world’s largest DDoS mitigation platform, capable of stopping an attack 10 times larger than the record-breaking 2016 event.

Of course, the next 20 years of the Internet are impossible to predict. The only thing for sure is more — more people, more devices, more data and more security risks. Whatever happens, we can predict that UltraDNS will still be there to help businesses stay safe and secure on the Internet.


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