I’ve found that Catchpoint, with the specific Direct DNS and DNS Experience tests, has a unique feature set that really doesn’t compare to anything else that I’ve used on the market. It provides context that other monitoring platforms don’t provide. And everything is top-notch in terms of the UI and the whole experience…Having a tool like Catchpoint in hand is probably the closest thing to NyQuil that our operations team can get their hands on.
NS1 is constantly improving the performance and capacity of its anycast network through the addition of new points of presence (PoPs), routing policy adjustments, and by adding new transit carriers and peering agreements into the mix.
As anyone who has operated a globally anycasted network will know, changes must be carefully vetted to ensure they don’t have any unintended negative impact on their global DNS network. To do this, NS1’s IT Ops teams lab out changes on anycasted “staging” preﬁxes, at which point they A/B test using the Catchpoint digital experience observability platform to understand the local and global impact of the adjustments before pushing the changes to production.
Instant Tests also come in handy during NS1’s regular maintenance of their global managed anycast network, as well as Direct DNS tests against their own infrastructure as well as those of their competitors. If a particular problem such as a latency spike is identiﬁed, they then turn to the Catchpoint Traceroute tests to determine what path is being taken, and how it’s changed from the previous day so they can pinpoint the root cause of the issue.
It’s not uncommon to ﬁnd that Tier 2 and even Tier 1 carriers experience issues. Being able to see that multiple DNS providers are aﬀected allows them to quickly pinpoint the source of the issue and take appropriate action with the transit vendor in question.
Catchpoint DNS Experience tests also play a valuable role in identifying performance issues by collecting more granular performance data, particularly when smooth round trip time (SRTT) comes into play. By enabling SRTT on their Experience tests, NS1 is able to refer the most performant endpoints, which is important for their Unicast networks such as the one they have in China.
Additionally, when comparing diﬀerent networks and endpoints, NS1 typically utilizes a round-trip time (RTT) graph within the Catchpoint platform. However, for a more global viewpoint, they make use of the Catchpoint geo chart in order to better understand the network performance in diﬀerent parts of the world.
Within these test results, NS1 is able to get even more granularity by using the diﬀerent metric breakdowns and ﬁltering that Catchpoint oﬀers. By looking at analytics within the perspective of the 95th or 99th percentile, standard deviation, geometric mean, etc., they are able to better analyze the data directly within the platform. This allows them to delve deep into the data to determine the root cause.
Another ﬁlter that comes in handy for NS1, especially during the sales cycle, is the location ﬁlters. These enable them to see exactly what the response time was like in China, and break it down by diﬀerent PoPs and providers, which is especially useful when demonstrating that their network’s performance is superior to those of their competitors.
Catchpoint has become an integral tool in both NS1’s sales process, as well as their day-to-day network management operations and development.
By using the diﬀerent test types (Instant, Traceroute, DNS Direct, and Experience) in conjunction with one another, they’ve been able to ﬁne tune the performance of their global Anycast and Unicast networks, even when expanding into new markets like China and Indonesia, where the infrastructure can present signiﬁcant challenges for the end user experience.
According to NS1’s Lead Solutions Engineer, Devin Bernosky, “Being able to monitor from inside mainland China has been integral to our success in that market. Our Managed DNS for China product launched on day one with market leading network performance, and that was a critical piece of why it was immediately successful in meeting the unique needs of customers in the region.”
These processes are essential for bringing new PoPs online in emerging markets, but they’re also critical for making transit adjustments in locations where users have a higher standard for digital performance.
In one instance, a new path that was opened in Chicago ended up having peering issues with one of their providers, and users were being rerouted from Chicago to Miami and back. By pulling up the Catchpoint tests and sharing them with the provider using the Public URL feature, NS1 was able to resolve an issue in mere minutes when using another observability tool would have taken hours.
“Being able to run an instant test anywhere in the globe, and validate a user's experience in China or Indonesia, is incredibly valuable to our team. If we do need to run a test on a Beijing PoP on Alibaba, I can go in and do that within 30 seconds. From a pre-sales troubleshooting perspective, that's been one of the most valuable things that's come from Catchpoint, in addition to vetting new technologies and objectively demonstrating our market-leading performance relative to other providers," says Bernosky.