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Improve network availability with Amazon Route 53

Route 53 is an Amazon service that gets less attention than some of the others, but that doesn't mean it's not important. This scalable DNS service can improve network availability and reliability.

All enterprises strive to design cloud platforms around reliability, scalability and availability. Amazon Web Services'...

delivers these attributes, but only when cloud architects follow best practices and properly use tools such as AutoScaling, load balancing and health monitoring tools.

But while the most common cast of Amazon Web Services (AWS) offerings -- Elastic Block Storage, Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Relational Database Service (RDS) and Simple Storage Service (S3) -- are provisioned to deliver services that remain up 24/7, there is one service that seems to have wrongfully fallen off the map -- Amazon Route 53.

Route 53 is Amazon's domain name system (DNS), which is a set of distributed servers that perform lookups that match easy-to-remember words such as hostnames and email addresses to numeric-based IP addresses (e.g. 123.123.123.123). This allows traffic traveling over the Internet to know where to go. But as DNS itself has evolved, the potential for things to run amok has advanced in lockstep.

For example, when GoDaddy.com's DNS server became corrupted, it affected many AWS customers who stored elastic IP addresses in GoDaddy.com's system. Even though services such as AWS EC2, RDS and S3 worked normally, DNS was the first link in the chain to fail. Any customer that used GoDaddy.com's DNS servers couldn't reach public-facing servers.

A global network of DNS servers supports Amazon Route 53's fault tolerance. These servers are, in turn, configured to optimally respond to lookups based on current network conditions. The result is low hostname latency lookup times for applications that use Route 53 to exchange traffic with remote servers.

In addition to low latency, Amazon Route 53 is tightly meshed into other AWS services. Therefore, you can configure it to send incoming requests to Elastic Load Balancers (ELBs). The ELB then routes traffic to the appropriate EC2 instance based on an existing load balancing algorithm. Amazon calls this "latency-based routing," or LBR. Basically, end users in the AWS region are directed to the closest EC2 server through the ELB, resulting in improved application performance.

To get started with Amazon Route 53, subscribe to the service from the AWS Management Console. Create a hosted zone to store the DNS records for your domains and then tell your registrar to use Route 53 name servers. All future queries will be directed to Route 53 name servers instead of some third-party DNS service like GoDaddy.com.

Platforms that rely on exchanging data across interconnected servers almost always rely on DNS. In addition to realizing fault-tolerant benefits to ensure servers stay up and running and customers remain happy, overall system responsiveness is more efficient for enterprises that rely on globally distributed software systems.

This was last published in July 2014

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