How Dyn is rising to the cloud challenge

Dyn Chairman Jim Baum on internet performance management’s role in hybrid and public cloud migration, addressing needs of blurring IT and business sides

How Dyn is rising to the cloud challenge

Trying to capture an end-to-end picture of application performance across a single enterprise is challenging enough. Providing that level of visibility for hybrid- and public-cloud-enabled applications presents a whole new level of difficulty. Enter Dyn, which is an early leader in the emerging internet performance management (IPM) market.

jim baum chairman dyn

Jim Baum

Dyn Chairman Jim Baum, formerly CEO of analytics company Netezza, spoke recently with IDG Chief Content Officer John Gallant about Dyn’s cloud-based IPM portfolio. Baum says Dyn combines visualization and traffic steering capabilities with a slew of data about what’s happening across the global internet to help enterprises monitor and manage critical applications beyond the firewall. Baum discussed the competitive dynamics of the IPM market, and how Dyn’s tools are helping companies improve business processes and save money. He also explored how the lessons learned at Netezza are shaping Dyn’s strategy.

Your corporate vision statement says that Dyn is a company ‘connecting people, content and commerce through a single global internet’. That’s a pretty big mission. How exactly do you make that a reality?

Dyn has positioned itself in an emerging category that we refer to as IPM, or internet performance management. The strategy is to tie together people and assets - specifically cloud-oriented assets - in a way that provides a high degree of visibility, transparency, resiliency and performance. Those really are at the core of what Dyn does. We’re leveraging, particularly in the enterprise space, the broad-based migration from captive data center-oriented computing to computing as a service and cloud offerings.

Enterprises today need to connect with, obviously people: their employees, their shareholders, their customers, their suppliers, their various constituents. They need to connect devices. Think about what’s happening in IoT, the connection of an ever expanding number of devices and leveraging the data from those devices to make ever more mission-critical business decisions. They’re doing that through an increasingly new form of distributed infrastructure, largely in the form of cloud computing and CDNs [content distribution networks] for content distribution to the edge.

Dyn is focused on making all those connections work and making those connections work in a way that is performant and resilient in an environment where, frankly, enterprises no longer directly control the infrastructure. When the infrastructure is in the form of a data center or even a distributed data center, you have tremendous control over the OS levels, over the software level, over the connectivity or how things are tuned to perform. When you’re distributing these mission-critical applications and connectivity out through a global internet to every corner of the globe, you don’t control that infrastructure. Dyn is putting a control layer around that that gives people the ability to visualize, make decisions about how they deploy that infrastructure and gives them a high level of resiliency as well as a high level of performance.

When you talk about Dyn’s Internet Performance Management platform, what does that consist of?

At the core of everything Dyn does is we resolve DNS queries and we resolve them in the form of a managed service. Obviously, you’re familiar with the DNS query and the fact that when a DNS query is resolved you have an opportunity to make a number of choices about how you direct traffic, especially in complex network environments. We make those choices intelligently and we make them in a way that guarantees an optimized outcome - a performance optimization or a cost optimization. We do that with another component of the platform which is built around data.

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Dyn has a unique set of data collectors that are distributed throughout the internet infrastructure out at the edge, in transit providers and elsewhere, where we are able to collect hundreds of billions of data points a day monitoring how traffic is flowing through the global internet. We use that information to help us make good decisions about how we steer traffic. That’s how we can optimize for performance or cost or routing, even geopolitical optimizations to avoid certain country borders.

There is a third broad capability in the platform which is around visualization and understanding of the network infrastructure as you’re deploying it, the reachability of it, the performance of it and the topology of your network infrastructure as you’re using perhaps multiple CDNs or multiple cloud providers. People really want to understand how traffic is flowing and they’re trying to optimize performance, geopolitically or cost-wise across these distributed assets. The three big tenets of the platform - DNS, data and data as a service and the network visibility and analytics - really tie together to create what we call the IPM Platform.

What do your Internet Intelligence products do?

Internet Intelligence (II) is the set of products that provide this level of transparency and visibility to people who are deploying network infrastructure, specifically outside-the-firewall network infrastructure. The Internet Intelligence products are a front end for many of the data offerings that we have. They allow you to see how traffic flows, they allow you to see the availability of various resources, they allow you to compare performance of different CDN assets, they allow you to compare the performance of different cloud assets.

The Internet Intelligence products are about creating that portal of visibility into assets, performance of assets and how assets are utilized. The information that is being displayed, the content that is being displayed through II, is largely the content that is collected by Dyn’s data services, though many customers also include some of their own data services.

How do you capitalize on all this intelligence you’re collecting from all the customers using this cloud-based offering? What can you share with people and what can’t you share out of that intelligence?

There’s a lot that you can leverage from the data. Think about the idea of evaluating CDN assets and making decisions based on performance or cost - which CDN is the most effective not just globally but by specific geography. I think that’s a very interesting one. If you want to leverage different distributions of various cloud providers, different geos of different cloud providers, we give you the visibility to make those decisions most effectively. Again, the benefit is derived in the form of cost and cost mitigation and performance and then resiliency. The value proposition always translates really into those fundamental areas.

Can you go into a little bit more detail about the traffic shaping products and what problems those solve or what opportunities those create for customers?

Most of the traffic management capability that Dyn provides is built around DNS-based traffic steering. We use DNS at that fundamental layer of the internet as a platform for traffic steering decisions and steering decisions are based on policy. Policy could be that we want to steer based on avoiding certain geographies, or we want to steer to resolve a particular shape of traffic we’re observing that is manifesting itself in the form of a DDoS attack. We would steer around that. Or we want to provide steering based on real-time performance data that we’re collecting through our data products. That’s, I think, a good example where you see the power of integrating the managed DNS platform with the real-time data collection and closing the loop using data to help apply the policy to achieve the objective.

I think you said that that kind of traffic shaping is done in real time based on policies. Is that correct?

That’s correct, yes. We use the data assets to inform the policy and we use the managed DNS platform to enforce the policy.

So, Jim, do you see that at some point becoming adaptive and learning and being able to do that more on its own as conditions change on the internet?

In fact, that’s what we’re doing right now. We think this is one of the very interesting things that tie together the value of the data asset and the value of the steering. Today, we literally collect, as I said, hundreds of billions of data points to profile performance on the internet. We use the results of that real-time data collection to apply a performance-driven policy in traffic steering. That loop is closed right now in the Dyn product line.

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I also wanted to ask about that multi-CDN capability. Can you talk a little bit more in depth about that and what that allows people to do?

What’s the objective in multi-CDN for a customer? The objective always is: I want to make sure my content is located in a way that it’s delivered in a high-performance manner to the end customer and to do that cost-effectively. With the II products we give the customer tremendous visibility into the performance of the CDN choices that they have and we allow them to play ‘what-if’. What if we use either a different instance of our current CDN or what if we use a different CDN provider altogether? One of the benefits of Dyn as a stand-alone monitoring business is that we create the opportunity for people to see across CDN providers as opposed to seeing inside of just one CDN provider. Typically, from the CDN providers you can get a lot of visibility about that CDN’s network and performance but it’s very hard to get a more neutral view across multiple CDN providers. We provide that capability so that our customers can look at CDNs and trade them off one another and make the decisions that optimize their costs.

Jim, I’m going to shift to some questions about the company and the competitive landscape, but is there anything else important about the products that you would want an IT executive to understand?

Our customer base has substantial interest in Dyn’s products as enablers in this migration to hybrid cloud. Enterprises are leveraging an increasing number of cloud services and they are quickly realizing they lack visibility into how those resources play together and how they control the performance and resiliency of their applications in infrastructure that they don’t directly control. They’re moving workloads out of the captive data center into cloud environments and it is critically important that they be able to manage those new applications and provide the level of service that they’ve been able to provide through their captive data centers. Helping companies move to the internet and operate as they were able to within their own proprietary data center environments is an important theme in the Dyn value proposition today.

If I understand correctly, you started with a focus on SMBs and consumers. Correct?

You do understand correctly. The company has a long and rich history in working at this layer of the internet. One of the company’s first products was a dynamic DNS product which was sold largely to consumers and prosumers. It’s still an important product for us. We have about 800,000 customers today that use a product called Remote Access that gives you the ability to access a device that sits behind a firewall and likely has a constantly changing IP address. We give you a stable way to access those devices and we sell that today for websites, we sell a service portal online. It turns out it’s actually a very interesting asset for Dyn as we expand our value proposition into the enterprise because every one of those end users is producing data. That becomes an important part of the data asset that we use to gauge the movement and performance of traffic on the internet in real time.

What prompted the shift to the enterprise IT market?

What prompted the shift is the recognition that this enterprise migration to cloud is such an important movement. We really are undergoing a platform shift. We’ve seen a number of them in our careers and we’re seeing a platform shift now to cloud computing and distributed computing as a service. It’s very real and it drives a tremendous amount of change in how enterprise IT is configured and functioning.

From Dyn’s perspective, we have 15 years of data history on how traffic moves on the internet. Some of the largest internet-native properties are customers of Dyn, companies like Twitter and Netflix. We have a unique asset in terms of our core intellectual property and our core competencies around data and traffic steering. It makes tremendous sense for Dyn to continue its growth trajectory into the enterprise and into enabling the enterprise migration to cloud and hybrid cloud.

Dyn against the world

There are a lot of companies that compete with you in one form or another, but who do you view as your primary competitors?

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