This New England Company Runs the Internet—And Now You Can, Too

Steve Case, the AOL co-founder and venture capitalist, had high praise for a tech company based in the fair city of Manchester, NH.

Your staff is basically running the Internet from New Hampshire, he told a crowd at a recent event at Dyn’s headquarters (I’m paraphrasing).

Dyn is an Internet infrastructure firm born just after the dot-com bubble, and it has come a long way.

For years, the company has been known for its Domain Name System (DNS) services—managing the plumbing that translates URLs into Internet Protocol addresses used by servers and routers to connect Web users to websites. For e-commerce and media companies, among others, Dyn’s software acts as a traffic controller, doing the dirty work of directing content to eyeballs. Its big customers include Twitter, LinkedIn, Netflix, Etsy, and Zillow.

Dyn (pronounced “dine”) bootstrapped its way to profitability for a decade before taking a $38 million growth equity round from North Bridge Venture Partners in 2012. In the past five years, the company has made about 10 acquisitions in DNS, e-mail delivery, and other areas, and now has 400-plus employees.

Recently, Dyn has been positioning itself as an Internet performance company, as well as an infrastructure play. The distinction is subtle, but it’s an important one. Basically, Dyn is selling itself as a top layer of control that sits above content delivery networks from Akamai, cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, application performance management software like Dynatrace, and other online infrastructure, such as data centers and transit providers.

The goal? To help customers optimize their software infrastructure, and give them the visibility to “unlock the data and analytics of ‘how does the Internet connect to you,’ and now make smarter decisions,” says Kyle York, Dyn’s chief marketing officer. That means finding the best traffic routes to deliver content, deciding which data centers to use, and so forth.

The company rolled out new software earlier this month, under its “Internet Intelligence” product umbrella. (The name might sound like an oxymoron, given the quality of Web content these days, but bear with me.) The offering lets anyone—think small teams to mid-size companies—get access to Dyn’s sophisticated Internet-monitoring technology via a simple dashboard interface (see below).

Internet Intelligence dashboard (image: Dyn)

The product originated from Dyn’s 2014 acquisition of Renesys, an Internet traffic monitoring company (also based in New Hampshire). Renesys built a sensor network covering some 200 locations around the world, and designed its technology for big companies and Internet service providers to keep tabs on traffic issues. Dyn took that and built a product “for a mass audience of companies born in the cloud,” York says.

What that means is customers themselves can now see the root cause of outages and traffic problems. “A lot of the time, it’s not that the site is down, it’s that the Internet paths to get there aren’t available,” York says. In other cases, such as the recent Facebook outages, he says, “We were able to say it’s not the Internet that broke, it’s something about Facebook that broke.”

And take today’s example of Fandango and other movie sites being overwhelmed by “Star Wars” fans trying to order pre-sale tickets. Dyn says its software approach is to be proactive and give companies alerts about how reachable their websites are. With that information, companies could redirect traffic on the fly to try to keep their services up and running.

Imagine that happening for more and more websites, and the notion of “running the Internet” would definitely spread to more players.

The bigger picture is that the Web continues to evolve—and more technology companies are providing more tools to optimize its performance. “Every website has two things in common—end users and content. Both are getting more and more complex,” York says. “The more complicated that connection gets, the more visibility you need to optimize it.”

Another important angle here is cybersecurity: the ability to see patterns and problems in traffic can go a long way toward detecting and responding to attacks. Dyn sees security as more of a use case than a primary thrust, York says. But he says businesses’ security and e-crime divisions are interested in the company’s new product line.

Now the race is on to go further and automate things like rerouting traffic to optimize Web performance. As York explains, Dyn’s software includes a bunch of rules in a traffic management engine. By sometime next year, it will add a new rule that feeds real-time data on latencies (delays and waiting times, see map below) into the engine so that if the delay in any area gets too high, the engine automatically sends traffic a different way to its destination.

“While you’re sleeping, we reroute the traffic,” York says.

Now that would truly be running the Internet.

Cloud performance latency map (image: Dyn)

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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