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Amazon, AWS, Route 53: Whats the difference?

January 24, 2022
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Heather Oliver is a Technical Writer for Constellix and DNS Made Easy, subsidiaries of Tiggee LLC. She’s fascinated by technology and loves adding a little spark to complex topics. Want to connect? Find her on LinkedIn.

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Unless you’re a hobbit living in Middle Earth (in which case, I’m jealous), much of your life revolves around the internet. This includes work and play. Businesses are perhaps even more reliant on the web than consumers. Not only does your website or application need to be fast and available 24/7, but you also rely on other online services and products to conduct your business. One of the most critical components of all this internet activity is DNS. Without it, our lives would be very different today.

Because DNS is so important, you want to make sure that you are paired with the right providers. Notice that was plural, as in two providers. In today’s online marketplace, redundancy is king! 

But who do you choose?

Considering the popularity of their main brand, it’s no surprise that businesses turn to Amazon’s cloud and DNS solutions. After all, who doesn’t know who Amazon is? I’m guessing no one, except maybe Bilbo Baggins and Frodo. In this blog, I’ll be discussing the pros and cons of using AWS as an exclusive provider as well as how Constellix and AWS can work together to provide your business with the ultimate online experience.

Who is Amazon?

Amazon is the largest online retailer in the world and has also become a household name. Founded in 1995 by Jeff Bezos, the company went from generating $20,000 per week by selling books to $4.4 billion weekly, selling nearly everything under the sun. Perhaps most known for its Prime membership, which offers free 2-day shipping for millions of products, Amazon is also wildly popular for its Kindle e-readers and tablets, streaming services, media storage, and its Alexa product line. According to AMZ Scout, Amazon has over 300 million active users, many of which are Prime members. The e-commerce site is so commonplace these days, that 89% of shoppers say they prefer to buy from Amazon than any other online retailer.

Who is AWS?

A lesser-known facet of Amazon, at least to its retail customers, is its Amazon Web Service (AWS) platform. While under the same umbrella, this service is used by businesses for cloud computing solutions. AWS offers one of the most comprehensive selections of cloud-based services in the industry. Options include storage, archiving, backup/restore, blockchain, containers, content delivery, virtual private servers, cloud resources, and much more.  

What is Route 53?

Another subsidiary of Amazon is Route 53, which is Amazon’s DNS service. Route 53 offers managed DNS and premium options, such as load balancing and GeoDNS services for web traffic routing. This solution is often paired with AWS as it is natively supported by services running on AWS infrastructure.

What is the Difference Between AWS and Route 53?

AWS is designed for cloud-based services such as VPS, VPCs, content delivery, and storage solutions, whereas Route 53 is only for DNS management services.

The Differences between Amazon and AWS and Route 53

When most people think of Amazon, they think of shopping or streaming movies and TV, etc., and because it’s such a large, well-known brand, many AWS and Route 53 customers gravitate toward these products solely because of familiarity. 

The problem with automatically trusting AWS or Route 53 based on Amazon’s brand reputation is that they are completely different entities and have nothing to do with each other. The same goes for any other brand that offers different products under the same umbrella. It’s like comparing an apple to an orange. 

When searching for a cloud or DNS provider, it’s critical that you fully understand the limitations and restrictions of potential providers, as well as their strengths and reputation. Just because something is “popular” or “the most used” doesn’t mean that it is the best choice for your organization. And, if we’re being honest with ourselves, decisions are often swayed by the company with the biggest sales and marketing budget. That might be good for the business, but not always so good for the customer.

AWS/Route 53’s Outage History

One example of why you shouldn’t make cloud and DNS provider decisions based on Amazon’s reputation is their long history of outages. While the dependability of Prime services, especially shipping, is debatable, as a Prime member for over a decade myself, I can attest that my experience with has been stellar. Even on the rare occasions that a delivery was delayed or I was sent the wrong package, the situation was quickly rectified and was just an annoying inconvenience.

The same can’t be said for outages.

Overall, AWS and Route 53 are strong, reliable solutions. But they do have a track record of issues that have taken them offline and/or prevented customers from using their services. Unlike a problem with a Prime service, this isn’t just an inconvenience, it is an extremely costly problem for domain owners (more on this later). 

Some of the most recent, notable outages AWS / Route 53 has experienced occurred in:

Dec 2021 (3)

Nov 2021

Sept 2021

Nov 2020

Oct 2019

May 2019

Apr 2019

Mar 2017

Tip: For a complete, detailed account of AWS outages, Wojciech Gawroński (aka AWS Maniac) has put together an excellent timeline in his article The Complete History of AWS Outages, which he updates regularly.

Outages: It Isn’t Always DNS 

The three AWS outages in December 2021, while regional, caused quite a bit of commotion for a lot of websites and apps, including the likes of Epic Games store, Slack, McDonald’s, Life360, Fall Guys, Duo, Zoom, Xbox Live, Hulu, and more.

Date: Dec 7

Where: US East 1 

Duration: 5 hours

Cause: An automated network capacity scaling issue that overwhelmed networking devices between the internal and main AWS networks. Read AWS’s explanation for more details.

AWS Outage 2:

Date: Dec 15

Where: US West 1 and 2

Duration: Approximately 45-60 minutes

Cause: Main network connectivity issues

AWS Outage 3:

Date: Dec 22

Where: US East 1

Duration: Several hours (before full network connectivity was restored)

Cause: power outage within a data center

While outages are certainly not uncommon in the industry, a provider’s personal history of uptime and reliability should be paramount in your partnering decisions. 

Did you know:? The DNS Made Easy and Constellix Network has the longest-running uptime history in the industry—over 12 years and counting!

DNS and Cloud Vendor Lock-in

If you develop everything for one platform, and the day comes when you decide you want to use another service, you may find yourself having to start from scratch or be stuck on the same platform that is no longer economically viable or suitable for your business. This is called vendor lock-in. This should be a major point of consideration before investing in a one-stop-shop solution or a provider that doesn’t allow you to use other services simultaneously, like secondary DNS or other monitoring solutions.

The Importance of Redundant and Secondary DNS

Even with a 100% uptime history since we first launched in 2013, we still recommend having two providers for your DNS. The truth is, DNS is just too important to allow a single point of failure. History has demonstrated this time and time again. 

Managed DNS Provider - Outage List

The good news is, having two DNS providers has other benefits as well: improved speed and performance. It also helps with brand reputation, because your domain will stay online even if one of your providers has an outage.

What is Secondary DNS?

Secondary DNS is when a domain has two DNS providers, and thus has two authoritative nameservers answering queries for the domain. When a change is made to the domain’s zone, the primary provider automatically synchronizes with the secondary nameserver. If one provider experiences an outage or system failure, the other provider will retry the queries, this way, the domain avoids downtime.

There are two types of redundant DNS configurations: Traditional Secondary DNS and Primary/Primary setups. Both deliver the same end results, including potential performance boosts, but Primary/Primary is done through API. Constellix supports Primary/Primary DNS, while our sister company DNS Made Easy supports traditional Secondary DNS.

The reason Constellix uses Primary/Primary through API is that we offer more advanced and complex solutions, as do other providers like AWS. Traditional Secondary DNS isn’t possible for more advanced configurations, so Primary/Primary allows you to have the best of both worlds—such as using Constellix and AWS/Route 53 together through API. 

How Does Having 2 DNS Providers Help My Performance?

Having two DNS providers can also lead to speed and performance bonuses too. This is because recursive resolvers usually gravitate toward the fastest authoritative nameserver, regardless of whether it’s a primary or secondary resource. 

Let’s take a look at speeds for AWS and Constellix (measured in milliseconds):

DNS Network Speed Performance Comparison

AWS Route 53 vs. Constellix: World

Constellix: 20.1 (winner)

AWS/Route 53: 30.41

AWS Route 53 vs. Constellix : North America

Constellix: 9.06 ms (winner)

AWS/Route 53: 17.85 ms

AWS Route 53 vs. Constellix : Europe

Constellix: 18.65 ms (winner)

AWS/Route 53: 20.33 ms

Speeds obtained from PerfOps

DNS Speed Performance AWS Route 53 vs Constellix

As an AWS/Route 53 user, you would automatically benefit from Constellix’s faster speeds as well as guaranteed uptime for your domain. This is a win-win for your organization! 

Pros of Having 2 DNS Providers

As a quick recap, here are the pros of having redundant DNS:

  • 100% uptime
  • Speed and performance boost
  • Protect brand reputation
  • Peace of mind

Cons of Having 2 DNS Providers

When it comes to redundancy, the benefits far outweigh the risks, but there are always points to consider:

  • Cost
    While just a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of an outage, there are additional costs that come with having dual providers. 
  • Implementation and maintenance
    As Primary/Primary is done through API calls, there will be additional configurations needed to ensure everything works smoothly between both providers. However, AWS is one of our integrated providers, which makes the process quick and simple. 

Why So Many Businesses Still Rely On Only One Provider

There are several reasons why some businesses still only use one DNS provider. One is simply lack of knowledge—they don’t know what they don’t know. Overestimating costs can also prevent some companies from even considering a secondary DNS solution. 

The fact is, having two DNS providers is one of the most cost-effective protective solutions for domains, period. 

It’s also common for businesses to underestimate the cost of a provider or IT-related outage. For the average business, just 1 minute of downtime can cost $5,600 or more than $300,000 an hour. For a company as large as Amazon themselves, this number can reach the millions—and to be clear, we’re talking millions per minute! And that isn’t including what it could cost your brand in the long-term, due to the negative impact outages can have on your company’s reputation. Most consumers don’t see it as AWS who has the outage, they see it as your site or application was down when they needed it.

How Constellix and AWS can work Together 

So, are we saying that your company shouldn’t use AWS or Route 53? Of course not! They offer viable solutions that certainly fit many use cases. What we are saying is that you shouldn’t use them, or any other provider, exclusively, especially when they have a history of outages. 

Constellix and AWS are actually an ideal dual provider match. Both provide advanced solutions and excellent service. If you’re currently using AWS/Route 53, you can easily configure a primary/primary setup in Constellix through API, as we offer built-in support for AWS domain transfers and secondary DNS configurations. You’ll be able to use all the advanced services AWS has to offer, while also benefiting from Constellix’s fast speeds and rock-solid uptime history. 

Two DNS Providers is Better Than One

No matter who you ultimately choose for your DNS solutions, the need for redundancy is clear. Businesses and consumers alike rely heavily on online solutions every day—shopping, work, education, entertainment, medical treatment, security, dating—you name it! Because of this reliance on the internet, fast and reliable service is paramount. Redundancy benefits us all. Every business, even a DNS provider, relies on another business for something. That’s why secondary DNS is key to success in our ever-growing digital world.

DNS Performance Comparison AWS Route 53
Click to view the AWS Route 53 Comparison Brochure

Related Resources:

Having a single cloud provider is so last decade

AWS suffers third outage of the month

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