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Introducing Akamai Edge DNS

At Akamai, we live by the motto "Intelligent Security Starts at the Edge," which is why we're excited to announce that we are changing the name of our authoritative DNS service from Fast DNS to Edge DNS. If you are an existing Fast DNS customer, rest assured that for now, this is purely a name change. But this announcement also marks the beginning of the next phase in the evolution of our authoritative DNS products. Over time, Edge DNS will advance as a product in a number of ways, and that's good news, both for our customers and for Akamai.

Naming products is never easy, and renaming one is even more difficult. The decision to rename Fast DNS was not taken lightly. A look at our roadmap, however, led us to evaluate whether the name "Fast DNS" would be the best name for the product moving forward (hint: it's not because Fast DNS isn't "fast"). Read on, and I'll provide you with more insight.

DNS is critical, both to the Internet and to Akamai

The research firm Strategy Analytics has estimated that the number of devices connected to the Internet is expected to surge to 38.6 billion by 2025, and 50 billion by 2030. When you consider that just about every time a device attempts to reach an Internet resource it initiates a DNS transaction, the impact of DNS on the basic ability of the Internet to function cannot be understated. In short, DNS is at the root of all connected things; it is to the Internet what a beating heart is to life. With the levels of growth forecasted, it's no wonder that DNS has become a strategic technology for so many organizations.

The Internet as we know it would also not be functional were it not for content delivery networks such as the Akamai Intelligent Edge Platform. Akamai's founders rightly surmised in the late 1990s that the Internet's growth would be unsustainable without the ability to deliver web content from a large distributed network of "edge" servers, rather than a few centrally located origins. That's right -- way before the term "edge" became an industry buzzword, Akamai practically invented the concept, and the content distribution method invented by Tom Leighton, Danny Lewin, and the original Akamai team, from sophisticated mathematical algorithms, was rooted in DNS.

DNS is in Akamai's DNA

Because the availability of Akamai's platform was (and is) so essential to the reliability of our services, and because DNS was (and is) a core component of our content mapping functions, Akamai's engineers were obsessed from the beginning with building out the highest-performing, most scalable, and resilient DNS infrastructure on the planet. There is little question that they succeeded; our DNS customers enjoy the peace of mind in knowing that their service is built on a highly resilient global network consisting of thousands of servers, and operates in close proximity to their end users and customers in over 40 countries and hundreds of cities around the globe. Our engineers have also made significant contributions to DNS standards and industry efforts, constantly seeking to innovate to the benefit of our customers.

Not surprisingly, Akamai's success in DNS bred further success, as customers began asking if they could use our highly reliable DNS network for their own DNS infrastructure. This led to Akamai launching a service known as Enhanced DNS (eDNS), which was eventually renamed Fast DNS. Akamai's DNS-based content mapping algorithms were next parlayed into a successful cloud-based global server load balancer service known as Global Traffic Management (GTM). Even more recently, Akamai invested significantly in recursive DNS technology, including two acquisitions (Xerocole and Nominum) that significantly bolstered our ability to protect enterprises and end users from phishing, malware, and other targeted threats. Indeed, around Akamai, "DNS is in our DNA" is a phrase heard fairly often, because it's the truth.

Even with this track record, however, we've never really promoted ourselves in the DNS space, perhaps because DNS is an "assumed" technology, one that sometimes flies under the radar.

Our DNS products enhance both our performance and security portfolios

Akamai has never been known to rest on its laurels. While still known as a CDN company, we've expanded significantly, transcending our prominence in content delivery to become a recognized leader in edge security. As our security business grew, and as DNS became a popular attack vector for Internet miscreants, customers began telling us that they viewed Fast DNS less as a performance product and more as a security product that nicely complements our popular WAF and DDoS mitigation solutions. Its resilient architecture, global scale, and ability to continue operating even while under attack, as well as its support for DNSSEC (which surprisingly is not available from some "name brand" DNS providers), have made Fast DNS highly appealing to customers that fully comprehend the concept "DNS down = Internet down." Its ability to function as a secondary DNS service only enhances that appeal, as a failsafe in the unfortunate event of a primary DNS outage. In short, while there are other DNS services out there, we believe that none are as secure or reliable as Akamai's.

To my earlier point, that is not to say that Fast DNS, or Edge DNS as it were, is not "fast." It certainly includes features that accelerate DNS responses and, to be clear, we plan to write on the topic of DNS performance in a future blog post. But with so many product capabilities, both current and planned, not necessarily related to speed, our feeling was that the Fast DNS name no longer fully represented all of the product's capabilities and benefits.

Why "Edge DNS"

Let's revisit and summarize the previous three points:

  1. DNS is a critical element, both to the Internet and to Akamai

  2. DNS is in Akamai's DNA, yet we haven't always promoted that

  3. Our DNS products enhance both our performance and security portfolios

In that context, the decision to go with Edge DNS was motivated primarily by two factors:

  1. The desire to adopt a name that aligns not with any one attribute (fast, secure, reliable, etc.), but with our broader position as a global leader in edge services

  2. Our investment in features and enhancements that over time will cover a spectrum of customer and market needs related to security, performance, usability, and DevOps

Another factor is that, quite simply, the timing was right. These are exciting times for DNS at Akamai, so why not generate some external excitement around our DNS portfolio as well? And DNS is as critical to our customers as it's ever been. With this new name and an invigorated roadmap, we think our customers will be delighted at how Edge DNS evolves. I invite you to learn more about Edge DNS by viewing the additional material related to this announcement both on our website and within the Akamai Community:

Welcome to the new generation of DNS from Akamai. Welcome to Edge DNS!

Jonathan Zarkower is a senior product marketing manager at Akamai.