SAN RAMON, CALIFORNIA (08/01/2000) - How do you get network managers to pay for a service they currently get for free? That's the challenge facing UltraDNS Corp., a start-up offering managed Domain Name System services to large corporations, dot-coms and ISPs.
Until now, most companies received free DNS services from their ISPs or Web-hosting companies. But UltraDNS officials say you get what you pay for with free DNS services.
"Domain name registrars and Web-hosting companies are running hundreds of thousands of domains based on tools designed 15 years ago," says Steve Hotz, chief technology officer of UltraDNS. "Their goal is to get DNS to run, not to run it more reliably or better."
DNS is the underlying directory system that manages more than 15 million Internet domain names. DNS translates a URL into an IP address so a Web surfer can reach a particular Web site to find information or place an order. When DNS services fail - which happens about 0.75% of the time - Web surfers receive an error message and can't reach the site.
"DNS has been treated very casually by a lot of providers," says Michael Hoch, a research analyst with Aberdeen Group in Boston. "They have a box that sits in the back room, and it may not even be a new box. It's a good enough approach."
He says this approach won't work as the number of domain names continues to grow. "Large enterprises that have a strong Internet presence and e-businesses will certainly use and need a managed DNS service," he says.
UltraDNS is believed to be the first company to offer enhanced, high-availability DNS services for a monthly fee. The company is building a global network of DNS servers that have failover capabilities and are located close to Internet users so UltraDNS can resolve queries faster and more accurately than free services.
UltraDNS provides round-the-clock technical support and a back-up service in case of major outages. Customers access the service via the Web to set up or change DNS configurations. Changes are propagated out to the UltraDNS service within 5 minutes, compared with waits as long as 30 hours for free DNS services.
UltraDNS launches its Managed DNS service on Aug. 1 but has been testing it with ISPs and Web sites for several months. One beta-test customer, FreeLotto.com, saw page views increase 12% the first week it used the UltraDNS service. Another beta-test customer, gig.com, has been touting the UltraDNS service as a strategic advantage when it sells its online music distribution service to record companies.
"UltraDNS is one of the vendors that helps us improve our service to our customers," says Michael Salzman, vice president of program management at gig.com. He notes that to be competitive, his service must be available all the time.
"DNS is not a very glamorous part of the network, but it's a very essential part," he adds.