Announcing NS1’s new $20M venture fundraise

Today we’re announcing a new $20M funding round led by GGV Capital, with participation from Salesforce Ventures and NS1’s existing investors.  It’s been less than a year since we raised a $23M Series B to accelerate our product development and customer growth, and we have really just begun to invest that capital – so why did we do it again?

The simple answer is that in the months since NS1’s Series B, we’ve seen enormous upheaval in the DNS and traffic management space and incredible enterprise validation of NS1’s software and services, resulting in a rapid expansion of NS1’s opportunity to impact the way online applications are built and delivered, and to change the way developers and operators think about DNS.  So, we’re pouring (even more) fuel on the fire.

But let’s go a little deeper.

A fundamental change in how applications are built and delivered

Over the past decade, we’ve observed (and in our case, worked to enable) a fundamental change in the way applications are built by developers and delivered to end users.  Today’s application architectures are more dynamic and distributed than the last generation’s – helped along by the emergence of public cloud and IaaS, container technologies, devops methodologies and orchestration tools, and the increasing prevalence of microservice architectures.  If you’re building and scaling an application today, chances are it lives across time zones and networks in multiple datacenters.  It probably depends upon cloud services both internally, as with object storage or DBaaS, and in the application delivery pathway, as with managed DNS or CDN.  And it is continuously deployed across an elastic substrate of compute, storage, and bandwidth.  This is in stark contrast to a decade or so ago, when the first step in deploying your online application involved a real estate transaction to buy space and power in a colocation facility, and elasticity was measured on the order of weeks, not seconds.

Every step in the application delivery pathway has been upended as a result of this fundamental change.  DNS is no different.

DNS software purpose built for today’s environments

DNS lookup is the entry point to nearly every online application.  The first indication you want to interact with an application and its underlying infrastructure happens when you type its domain into your browser and hit Enter, or when a mobile app looks up the IP address of an API server behind the scenes.  But how has DNS lookup, and the process of managing an application’s DNS setup, changed alongside all these other tectonic shifts in the ways applications are delivered?  Until recently, it really hadn’t.

DNS is a nearly 35 year old protocol and for the most part, the commercial authoritative DNS ecosystem has focused on delivering the protocol over reliable network infrastructure or through hardware or virtual appliances.  Every DNS vendor has a slightly different take, but by and large, everyone runs the same kind of software – usually, open source software built to implement the DNS RFCs and run reliably and fast on individual servers.  This software was never meant to be part of a highly dynamic infrastructure driven by real-time telemetry and propagating domain changes at the speed of light across a finely tuned global delivery network.  It was never meant to be truly aware of the conditions impacting the applications behind the DNS records it serves up.  It was never meant to capture the opportunity offered by DNS lookup – the entry point to every application – to inject real intelligence and enable automation, resiliency, and performance initiatives in line with the way applications are architected today.

That’s why NS1 is a software company, not a networking company.

Uniquely in the DNS and traffic management ecosystem – unlike other major managed DNS providers or appliance vendors – we built our entire software stack from scratch for today’s environments.  We built our software to be driven by real-time application and network data, leveraging the opportunity of DNS lookup into powerful intelligence early in the request path.  We built it to be delivered flexibly – through our world class global Managed DNS network, and through single-tenant deployments of our software in the cloud or on-prem.  We built it to be integrated into the rest of a modern application delivery stack, automated, propagating changes in infrastructure topologies and conditions quickly to optimize performance, reliability, and operational efficiency for our customers.

NS1 has become the breakaway leader in the space

Our software driven approach has resonated.  Since NS1’s founding in 2013, we’ve grown incredibly fast.  Today, we serve in the critical delivery path for hundreds of major internet and enterprise customers and deliver 10s of billions of DNS queries daily.  In your day on the internet, you’re almost guaranteed to do a DNS lookup that ultimately is serviced by NS1 – LinkedIn, The Guardian, Dropbox, Weight Watchers, Salesforce, and hundreds more of the world’s most important brands trust our software and delivery networks to manage DNS for their domains and keep their applications online and humming – from booking airline tickets to workplace chat to serving up cat pictures.

Just as important, our customers ensure the best experience for their users by deploying NS1’s traffic management to improve performance and minimize downtime for their applications.  They shift traffic across globally distributed cloud and physical infrastructure, multiple CDNs, and other service providers in real time as conditions change in their systems and on the internet.  They trust us to defend their domains from attacks, tie us into their infrastructure orchestration, depend upon us to propagate DNS changes around the world at the speed of light, and leverage our software in many different setups.  Our customers deliver domains globally with our high performance Managed DNS network, service audiences in the challenging but critical Chinese market with Managed DNS for China, deploy NS1 internally for automated service discovery, corporate DNS, and other use cases with our Dedicated DNS software, and spin up fully redundant cloud DNS configurations, resilient to network blips and DDoS attacks, with our Turnkey Redundant DNS networks.

Our approach aligns with the major technology initiatives receiving focus at nearly every internet company and major enterprise, because we designed our software for the cloud enabled application architectures of today and the next decade.

Cementing our position as the technology and market leader in DNS and traffic management

In the last year the DNS and traffic management space has seen huge changes.

The large DDoS attack against Dyn in October of 2016, followed by significant cloud service provider outages in early 2017, served as wake-up calls to everyone with an internet presence: cloud services are components of a delivery stack and redundancy at your cloud service layers – including CDN, DNS, storage, etc – is critical to building resilient application architectures.  The Dyn attack in particular changed the way sophisticated operators deploy managed DNS almost overnight.  We helped dozens of major brands introduce redundant DNS setups in the immediate aftermath of the event, and the demand for DNS redundancy has only accelerated since.  Redundant DNS is hard: leveraging multiple vendors means compromising on access to advanced features and solving complex synchronization challenges.  We’ve seen incredible demand for our single-tenant Turnkey Redundant DNS networks as a result, from customers who want easy physical and network redundancy without the synchronization and feature parity headaches of multi-vendor DNS setups.

The DNS ecosystem has also undergone major M&A upheaval this year, with acquisitions of Dyn, Neustar, Infoblox, and BlueCat.  These exits have been great for founders and investors, but customers have had to ask: who will continue to innovate in DNS?  Who remains independently focused on pushing the technology behind this globally critical protocol forward?

The answer is NS1.

We are in the business of DNS and traffic management.  We believe the DNS protocol and the DNS lookup phase of application delivery are critical to the way applications are built and delivered today, and will enable the architectures of tomorrow.  And we’re excited to accelerate our investment in DNS and traffic management with this new funding, along with investors who believe in the potential of a true software company in the DNS space.

We’re continuing to rapidly expand our world class team of software, infrastructure, and operations engineers, along with many other roles – in our offices in New York, San Francisco, New England, Vietnam, Singapore, the UK, and around the world.  Come help us change the way applications are built and delivered.

For more insight into this announcement, see this post by Glenn Solomon, Managing Partner, GGV Capital.