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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.
While the Amazon brand has become a household name, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Route 53 are mostly known in the tech industry or by companies that utilize their cloud and DNS services. As a provider in the DNS sector ourselves, we know there are a lot of options to choose from and understand how overwhelming it can be to decide on what solutions best fit your organization.
AWS is a cloud computing platform that offers a long list of cloud-based services and storage solutions for businesses. The AWS Partner Network (APN) is made up of thousands of systems utilizing the AWS platform. AWS also affords independent vendors the ability to customize their products to work alongside their services.
Route 53 is Amazon’s managed DNS service. It was introduced in December 2010 and its name was inspired by the port that addresses DNS requests: TCP/UDP port 53. Most customers using AWS cloud solutions also rely on Route 53 for DNS services, as it can be bundled in with other services.
Amazon Route 53 offers solid DNS-based solutions that are especially effective when paired with other services that run on AWS’s infrastructure. Here is a list of Route 53’s top DNS features.
Now let’s take a look at Constellix’s top features and how they compare with Route 53’s. As you can see, Constellix provides similar offerings, but there are a couple of unique features offered as well.
This option is comparable to Route 53’s Latency-based Routing.
Serves the same purpose as Route 53’s Weighted Round Robin.
Failover operates in the same fashion as Route 53 with one key difference: Constellix checks the health of your alternative resources before redirecting traffic.
Vanity DNS at Constellix serves the same purpose as Route 53’s Private DNS, but without the need for another specialized service. You can also use Vanity DNS to rebrand Constellix nameservers and add a dedicated IP address to your Vanity DNS servers.
This option is comparable to Route 53’s Traffic Flow.
IP filtering is one of Constellix’s GeoDNS solutions. It allows you to create a firewall at the DNS level by creating rules for DNS records. Filters can be used to direct or block traffic by region, country, city, or even as specific as an IP address, ASN, or geographical coordinates.
This feature works similarly to Route 53’s health checks, but also automates tasks such as failover and GeoDNS configuration updates. It makes DNS “smart” and serves as an automated disaster recovery tool.
This service uses machine learning (based on the Fourier Arima model) to analyze and predict your web traffic. It also allows you to view DNS traffic in real time, and if any unusual or suspicious activity is detected, instant notifications are sent to your team.
In-depth, real-time reporting on domain activity for troubleshooting and performance enhancements.
This option lets you manage all of your CDNs in one place, prevents outages, and improves performance by doubling your coverage map.
The pricing model at Route 53 is similar to Constellix in that there are no upfront fees or query commitments. Route 53 charges a monthly fee for each hosted zone, has a per-query charge (except for Alias A records that point to certain other AWS services), as well as a yearly charge per domain registered with Route 53. Constellix, on the other hand, operates on a per-usage model (you only pay for what you configure) and includes free access to the query reporting feature.
AWS provides a stable cloud and DNS service, but it does have a history of notable outages that have affected a large portion of domains on the internet. For instance, in 2012, the U.S.-East region experienced an outage due to a DNS record update that didn’t propagate across all servers. An Amazon S3 service, which uses Route 53 DNS, had an outage in March 2017 due to a typo during a debugging exercise. A hijack attack on Route 53 in April 2018 took out their DNS services, but AWS was able to rectify the issue within a few hours. Amazon S3 was taken down again by a DDoS attack that was targeting specific domain names in 2019. There were reports of ignored anomalies that occurred prior to the attack, and Neustar, charged with mitigation of the attack, took hours to respond. More recently, Amazon’s photo services went down in May 2021, though the cause was not disclosed.
Amazon uses best practices for its own Amazon.com site by utilizing secondary DNS, though they do not use Route 53 for this domain, and instead, use two external DNS providers. Considering the company’s outage history, it would be prudent for AWS and Route 53 clients to implement primary/primary or traditional Secondary DNS to ensure their domains don’t experience costly disruptions.
When it comes to DNS speed, Route 53 lags behind Constellix. For instance, in the last 30 days, PerfOps shows Route 53 to be 105% slower in raw performance in North America and 108% slower from a resolver’s point of view. This demonstrates that while AWS has a massive infrastructure and a significant number of points of presence (PoP), the company’s speeds still suffer. This is largely due to the number of services offered by AWS, as it significantly increases traffic across its network, and in a sense, causes its own services to compete with each other. Another potential cause of Route 53’s slower speeds is that if systems are housed at an external location (outside of a data center), queries have to make one additional stop before a record can be provided.
Speed is one of the most important factors for running a successful domain. Today’s online consumers are more demanding than ever before. As technology evolves, user patience actually devolves because they become accustomed to immediacy. This explains why even a one-second delay in load time for a website can lead to a 7% reduction in conversions. Not only that, but Google now uses site speed as a ranking factor for SEO.
Although AWS Route 53 offers a robust DNS feature set, it does have its limitations. For one, because AWS provides such a large amount of cloud-based options, it can lead to vendor lock-in. This happens due to the need to build AWS-specific API calls for certain services or simply because it appears to be an all-encompassing package deal. The problem with that is even when utilizing Failover, without Secondary DNS, domains lack redundancy at every point of failure and can still experience an outage if Route 53 goes down.
Another limitation is the lack of support for private zone transfers, as well as private endpoints over virtual private networks (VPN) for on-site customers unless you use AWS’s VPC service. Users are also limited to 20 domains per AWS account, 500 hosted zones, and 10,000 records per hosted zone. To have more would require contacting AWS and would likely result in a higher monthly fee. And, as mentioned earlier, the amount of services offered by AWS can also be a detriment to its network, as such a heavily utilized network can result in slower speeds.
Overall, AWS Route 53 provides a respectable DNS solution for businesses. However, pairing it with another provider such as Constellix will give your domain a competitive edge. Not only would a primary/primary DNS configuration between Constellix and Route 53 help fill the gap in limitations, it will also ensure you have redundancy at every point of failure. Furthermore, as resolvers learn which nameserver is the fastest and tend to prefer that server, you will benefit from Constellix’s faster speeds while still being able to take advantage of all the services Route 53 and AWS have to offer. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
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