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Neustar UltraDNS Features and Pricing

September 14, 2021

With TransUnion’s recent acquisition announcement, the direction of Neustar’s services and products are uncertain. As TransUnion’s focus for acquiring Neustar seems to be centered around their fraud and identity resolution, many companies who rely on UltraDNS for their domain may be wondering how this affects their DNS.

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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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With all the options for DNS services on the market, it can be overwhelming to decide which one is the best fit for your organization. Most providers have similar core solutions, but how they work and any advanced features available vary wildly. In this blog series, we aim to help you get a full understanding of services offered by top DNS hosts in the industry, as well as how their services stack up against and pair with Constellix. 

TransUnion Acquires Neustar

With TransUnion’s recent acquisition announcement, the direction of Neustar’s services and products are uncertain. As TransUnion’s focus for acquiring Neustar seems to be centered around their fraud and identity resolution, many companies who rely on UltraDNS for their domain may be wondering how this affects their DNS. As it stands, services are continuing as usual, at least for the short term. The DNS services and features in this product comparison are current at the moment but could be subject to change as the transition finalizes.

The focus of this resource is Neustar UltraDNS

What is Neustar UltraDNS?

Neustar UltraDNS is an authoritative DNS provider for businesses. UltraDNS was founded in 1999 and acquired by Neustar in 2006.

UltraDNS: Top DNS Features

UltraDNS offers cloud-based DNS solutions that run on Neustar’s non-open source network, which features 30 nodes in six continents. Here is a list of Ultra’s top DNS features.

  1. UltraDNS Firewall
    A recursive DNS service that is designed to block threats at point of contact, before they hit your network. 
  2. SiteBacker (Failover/monitoring)
    This feature is UltraDNS’s failover and monitoring service that requires no dedicated hardware to implement. SiteBacker runs health checks on resources and automatically directs traffic to an alternate resource in the event the primary IP/host fails. This solution can also be paired with other UltraDNS services. 
  3. Traffic Controller (Weighted Round Robin)
    Traffic Controller is a weighted load balancing feature that supports Weighted and traditional Round Robin based on percentages. Any host that hits critical status receives a 50% reduction in traffic. If a resource fails, the record won’t be returned. 
  4. Directional DNS (GeoDNS)
    This option is UltraDNS’s Geolocation service which routes traffic according to end-user location. They offer 3,500 locations around the world to choose from and allow you to combine locations. This feature also lets you restrict access based on region.
  5. Apex Alias
    Apex Alias is a technique that allows users to provide CNAME functionality at the root of their domain. 
  6. Secondary DNS
    Neustar UltraDNS supports traditional Secondary DNS
  7. Recursive DNS
    Neustar Ultra DNS offers a free recursive public DNS. 

Neustar also offers non-DNS security features such as UltraDDoS Protect, a built-in DDoS protection solution for cloud and on-prem networks; UltraBot Protect, a bot management service that detects malicious bots and prevents them from accessing your network; VPN Protect, a cloud-based VPN solution for organizations and work-from-home employees; and UltraWAF, which provides cloud-based protection from application-layer attacks for web applications.

Constellix DNS: Key Features and How They Compare to Neustar UltraDNS

Constellix is one of the few DNS providers that focuses solely on DNS, including mitigation and protection strategies on the DNS level. Now let’s take a look at Constellix’s top features and how they compare with UtlraDNS’s:

  1. Latency Load Balancing
    Constellix’s Intelligent Traffic Optimization solution is a set-it-and-forget-it type of service that lets users optimize traffic based on region and manage multiple endpoints, including multi-cloud environments. 
  2. Weighted Round Robin
    Serves the same purpose as UltraDNS’s Traffic Controller. Resources can be weighted based on capacity, performance, and cost.
  3. DNS Failover
    Failover operates in the same fashion as Neustar UltraDNS’s SiteBacker with two key differences: Constellix operates on its own extensive, bare metal server infrastructure and checks the health of your alternative resources before redirecting traffic.
  4. Vanity DNS
    Vanity DNS at Constellix lets you rebrand Constellix nameservers and/or add a dedicated IP address to your Vanity DNS servers.
  5. GeoDNS
    Like UltraDNS’s Directional DNS, Constellix’s GeoDNS routes traffic based on user location. Customers can also filter traffic at city level, IP address, and ASN.
  6. Global Traffic Director
    Constellix’s Global Traffic Director lets users create region-specific DNS records that can serve content based on user location.
  7. Traffic Steering
    Traffic Steering is a multi-CDN management solution that features real-user and synthetic monitoring for predictive routing. 
  8. IP Filtering
    IP filtering is one of Constellix’s GeoDNS solutions. This works similarly to UltraDNS’s Directional DNS and DNS Firewall in that it allows you to create a firewall at the DNS level by creating rules for DNS records and can be used to direct or block traffic by region. Configurations can route or block queries based on country, city, IP address, ASN, or geographical coordinates.
  9. Sonar Performance Monitoring (health checks)
    This feature is comparable to SiteBacker’s built-in monitoring service but also automates tasks such as failover and GeoDNS configuration updates. Sonar also serves as an automated disaster recovery tool and converts standard DNS into “smart” DNS.
  10. Real-Time Traffic Anomaly Detection (RTTAD)
    This service uses machine learning (based on the Fourier Arima model) to analyze and predict web traffic. With RTTAD, you can view DNS traffic in real time, and are instantly notified if any suspicious activity is detected.
  11. Query Reports and Statics
    In-depth, real-time reporting on query activity. This solution is invaluable for troubleshooting DNS errors and misconfigurations, identifying potential threats based on historical domain data, and for optimizing performance. 
  12. Multi-CDN Management
    With Multi-CDN Management, customers can manage all of their CDNs in one place. This option doubles your coverage map and prevents outages as each endpoint is monitored by performance and health status.
  13. ANAME Records
    Constellix’s ANAME record is comparable to UltraDNS’s Apex Alias.
  14. Primary/Primary or Hidden Primary
    Constellix supports non-traditional Secondary DNS - Hidden Primary or Primary/Primary configurations via API calls for provider redundancy.

Neustar UltraDNS Pricing

Neustar UltraDNS does not list its pricing. Customers must contact the company for more information and quotes. Constellix has a transparent, per-usage model (you only pay for what you configure) and includes free access to the query analytics feature. A pricing calculator is available online or you can request a custom quote for complex, outside-the-box needs and configurations.

Notable UltraDNS Outages

Neustar UltraDNS provides a reliable and stable DNS service for customers overall, but the company has experienced several outages over the years.

Constellix Outage History: 100% Uptime Since Inception

Constellix, which runs on the same network as its sister company DNS Made Easy, hasn’t experienced a single outage since it first launched in 2013. DNS Made Easy has an 11+-year history of 100% uptime, the longest in the industry. In September of 2020, the network experienced a 500+ Gpbs DDoS attack, but the attack was mitigated with no disruption of service for users.

UltraDNS DNS Speed Test and Infrastructure Comparison

When it comes to DNS speed, UltraDNS trails behind Constellix. In the last 30 days, DNSPerf shows Constellix ranking at 8.26ms in North America in terms of raw performance, whereas UltraDNS comes in at 12.66ms—a 42% difference. Resolver simulation time produced similar results.

The difference in speed can be due to many things, but infrastructure plays a major role in DNS performance. While Neustar UltraDNS has a respectable 30 nodes, Constellix has more than 100 and maintains its own network of bare-metal servers that are strategically placed within data centers and to provide services at the edge. As mentioned earlier, UltradDNS runs in a virtual cloud environment.  

Speed is a crucial factor for domains that want to be competitive in the online marketplace. As technology evolves, consumer demand for speed and accessibility also grows. Our digitized world expects immediacy when accessing web content. This is demonstrated by marketing metrics that show just a one-second delay in website load time can lead to a 7% reduction in conversions. Google has also started using site speed as a ranking factor for SEO. 

DNS Speed Comparison Neustar / Ultra DNS - GBPS, Uptime, Peers, Speed Benchmark

Neustar UltraDNS Limitations

UltraDNS provides a well-balanced DNS solution for companies. Limitations will largely depend on your organization’s unique needs, but here are a few points to consider. While running on a virtual cloud network can be convenient due to not needing additional hardware, it could potentially slow your DNS speeds down, as shown in the above speed comparison. Cloud outages are very common and can lead to significant losses for customers affected. UltraDNS does offer a 100% uptime guarantee, but history doesn’t reflect 100% uptime. Be sure to read the fine print about guarantees in the service-level agreement (SLA)—that goes for any provider. In regards to features, the lack of multi-CDN management and comprehensive reporting and analytics features could be a disadvantage for power users.

UltraDNS and Constellix DNS Integration

Constellix and UltraDNS aren’t natively supported through either platform, but secondary configurations can be achieved via Terraform. With a simple API call, your domain can take advantage of both platform’s feature sets and have ultimate redundancy, faster performance, and the highest possible query resolution accuracy. 

If you found this useful, why not share it? If there’s a topic you’d like to know more about, reach out and let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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