Outages, pandemics and the reengineering of traffic on the internet

NS1 EC-1 Part 4: Customer development

Sales in enterprise infrastructure is all about meeting a customer’s requirements. But what happens if customers don’t even realize they need a startup’s product in the first place?

In the first three parts of this EC-1, we looked at the origins of NS1, how the company built its DNS and DDI services, and how it competes in a hypercompetitive market. This fourth and final part is where the “rubber meets the road” — the actual customers. Without customers, there is no money, there is no growth and there is no NS1.

NS1 kicked off with the idea that DNS could be used for more than it was previously. The company’s technology has continued to evolve since its initial inception and now uses DNS as a leverage point to help organizations like Pinterest, Roblox and hundreds of others improve application delivery.

As we saw, the challenge for NS1 is that most customers are relatively content with their existing DNS service. It’s a space that has many offerings from legacy as well as public cloud providers, and for most customers, there’s never an urgent force pushing them to upend the fundamentals of their network.

NS1 has had a couple of lucky breaks. The first, as we will see with Pinterest and Roblox, was a major outage of one of the company’s largest competitors, DynDNS, back in October 2016. That failure brought NS1 immediate attention from network architects, turning a relatively staid layer of infrastructure into a critical area for re-architecting.

Beyond that outage, NS1 has been able to educate its customers on why a more flexible base for DNS is important for performance. We interviewed Roblox extensively to understand how the social gaming platform has engineered its systems in light of its feverish growth amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, we will look at how NS1 continues to expand its product lineup, and what the future holds for the company. NS1 now serves more than 760 customers, including many of the world’s most trafficked applications, such as LinkedIn, Dropbox, JetBlue, Fox and The Guardian. It has become a major infrastructure leader, and an “unusual outcome” likely awaits.

One outage to topple them all

There are a lot of different reasons why any enterprise or organization would choose to buy services from NS1.

Every business and internet user on the planet already has access to DNS in one form or another. NS1 doesn’t sell merely DNS services, as the company repeated time and again in every interview and briefing, but instead sells network resilience and performance. Sure, DNS “just works” in many cases, but “good enough” isn’t good enough when microseconds count and users demand and expect to always be connected at the best possible speed.