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AWS Route 53 Explained! How DNS Works and its Benefits

Author Image By Ashish Dwivedi

Last Updated: October 6, 2022

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Amazon Route 53 or AWS Route 53 is a DNS (Domain Name System) web service. It is renowned for its scalability and 100% uptime. We can use the Route 53 DNS for the services and machines that are deployed on Amazon’s public cloud. In addition to this, you can also purchase public domains and private domains from Route 53. In order to understand Route 53, we’ll first have to be familiar with DNS. So let’s get started.

What is DNS (Domain Name System)?

To understand simply, DNS commences the process of converting the hostname (www.example.com) into an IP address (192.168. 1.1).

But why is there a need to convert the hostname into IP address?

Reason: The computer doesn’t read the hostname or domain address as we do, instead of this, they detect and identify the IP address.

AWS DNS

How does DNS work?

  1. Suppose you searched for example.com in your web browser.
  2. Then your web browser will send a request to the “Resolver” to see if it has the IP address of example.com.
  3. If Resolver doesn’t have the IP address, it will send the same request to the root server. 
  4. Usually, the root servers don’t know about the IP address, however, they do know its whereabouts. So they redirect the resolver to the TLD (Top-Level Domain) Server like .com, .net, .org, etc.
  5. Now, the resolver will ask for the IP address of example.com from the TLD server.
  6. TLD server stores the information of the .com top-level domain. Though it won’t have the IP address. But the TLD server will redirect the resolver one last time.
  7. The last server is called the Name Server, and it knows everything about the domain including the IP address. As per the resolver’s request, the name server will provide the IP address of example.com.
  8. Now the resolver has the IP address, it will give IP to the web browser from where the actual request was generated.
  9. The browser makes the HTTP request to the IP address and Voila! A rendered webpage on the screen will appear.

What is AWS Route 53?

AWS Route 53 was launched over a decade ago in 2010 as a DNS service by Amazon Web Services. It’s a merger of two names; Route comes from the iconic Route 66 (a highway in the USA) and 53 because all DNS server requests are sent to Port 53 (both TCP and UDP).

Amazon Route 53 is compliant with Ipv4 as well as Ipv6. It connects user requests to infrastructure running on the Amazon Web Services like S3 Buckets, Amazon EC2 Instances, CloudFront, and ELB (Elastic Load Balancing) Load Balancer. But they do not limit it to this, Route 53 can also connect users’ requests to infrastructures other than AWS.

Apart from that, its DNS health check service is also top-notch. For example, it is capable of detecting the failure and even redirecting the user to a different server location so the application keeps working uninterruptedly.

Key Benefits of Amazon Route 53

Amazon route 53

1. Highly available and reliable

The AWS high-reliability infrastructure which is spread all over the globe reinforced route 53. This distributed groundwork by AWS makes sure the availability and uptime remain 100%. Because of this enormous infrastructure, AWS Route 53 is one of the best DNS out there.

There are intelligence features like traffic flow and routing control that redirect the users to the alternate location in case your primary server is down or unavailable. 

2. Flexible

The flexibility you get with Route 53 is unparalleled. On top of that, you can do customization and create your own traffic policies so it fits your special needs. There are multiple criteria based on which Route 53 directs traffic to your server. Some of them are:-

  • Endpoint health
  • Geographic location (Based on the location of the user)
  • Latency
  • Geo Proximity (Based on the location of the resources)
  • Failover rule

We’re going to elaborate on the Amazon Route 53 Traffic Flow route in the later part of this blog. As of now, you can learn the benefits you will get.

AWS allows you to create multiple traffic policies. There is also a version controlling feature that lets you track the changes made in a particular traffic policy. You can also restore to the previous version if you want. For creating a traffic policy, you can use Route 53 console, AWS SDKs, or the Route 53 API.

3. Scalable

If there is a sudden surge of traffic on your server, then don’t need to worry about it crashing. Route 53 is automatically scalable and you won’t need to intervene at any point to manage all the traffic.

4. Cost-effective

AWS Route 53 is cost-effective because it follows the pay-as-you-go pricing model. There is no upfront fee i.e. you will only pay for what you use. 

5. Designed to use with other Amazon Web Services

Another great thing about Route 53 is its compatibility with the AWS infrastructure which includes Amazon EC2 instances, Amazon S3 buckets, Amazon Cloud front distributions, and other AWS resources.

Key Features of Amazon Route 53

Below we have only those features that make AWS Route 53 outstanding among other web services. 

1. Route 53 Routing Control

What routing control does is divert the incoming traffic from the original application to its replica (duplicate instance). Amazon Route 53 uses health checks for redirecting the traffic flow. Being said that, routing control itself is not a health check monitoring system i.e. it doesn’t tell you parameters like response time. For this, you can use the Route 53 Health Checks feature.

For working with Amazon Route 53 you first need to create routing control components in Route 53 ARC. There are four components in total namely clusters, routing controls, health checks, and control panels.

2. Amazon Route 53: Latency-Based Routing

Latency-based routing is a new feature introduced by Amazon for Route 53, though it was already provided in the Amazon cloud front. This feature is important for applications with a global audience.

Its function is to route the incoming traffic to the most efficient Amazon endpoint (EC2 instances, Elastic IPs, or ELBs). The system looks at real-time performance metrics of the various AWS regions and then routes the traffic to the fastest application.

3. Geographic Routing with Geo DNS

It directs the traffic to the appropriate endpoint based on the geographical location of the person who made the request. It is supposed to act as a system for load balancing. AWS Route 53 also has other benefits for example:-

  • Use it for delivering personalized content based on the visitor’s location.
  • You can also restrict the distribution of content to those who have the right to access the content.
  • And for balancing the load across various endpoints (EC2 instances, Elastic IPs, or ELBs).

Geo DNS works on three geographical levels: continent, country, and states. Here is the list of locations confirmed by AWS (Geolocation for DNS).

As we mentioned above, there are other routing types as well. You can combine Geo routing with other routing types like latency-based routing for an even better experience.

Drawbacks of Amazon AWS Route 53

Undoubtedly, AWS Route 53 is one of the most advanced DNS systems out there, but it’s not perfect. There are some limitations that cannot be overlooked. You can count them as drawbacks to an extent. Let’s have a look at them one by one.

  1. Without DNSSEC Support: DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extensions). It solved the long-lying DNS authentication problem. It prevents attacks like DNS Cache Poisoning, DNS spoofing, and even Man in the Middle attacks.
  2. Cost-intensive: Even though Amazon Route 53 follows the pay-as-you-go pricing model, it is expensive sometimes. Especially for those who have non-AWS endpoints and services.
    1. AWS Endpoint Users: For example, a basic health check for the AWS endpoints costs $0.50 per health check. Please note that it doesn’t include Optional health check features (HTTPS, String Matching, Fast Interval, Latency Measurement, etc). For these optional features, users with AWS endpoint will need to pay $1 per month per optional health check.
    2. Non Endpoint users: On the other hand, a basic health check for the Non-AWS endpoints costs $0.75 per health check. Just like the above example, it doesn’t include Optional health check features (HTTPS, String Matching, Fast Interval, Latency Measurement, etc). For this, non-AWS endpoint users need to pay $2 per month per optional feature.

Amazon Route 53 Alternatives

If working in tandem with the AWS ecosystem, then Route 53 is the primary choice for sure. If that’s not the case with you then you can look at some alternatives. Below we have listed some competitors of AWS Route 53.

  1. Cloudflare DNS: It is also known as 1.1.1.1 and it is supposed to be the fastest and most secure DNS service. They have developed this with a partnership with Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC).
  2. Google Cloud DNS: Amazon is not the only giant in DNS technology. Apart from them, Google is also providing services. Google Cloud DNS has features like DNS forwarding, DNS security (DNSSEC), private zones, cloud logging, etc.
  3. Azure DNS: Microsoft’s Azure DNS is also a lucrative option. Just like Route 53, it also works great with the existing Azure ecosystem. Other features include routing based on geolocation, the global network of name servers, private zones, etc.

Conclusion

In this blog, we have covered how DNS works and also discussed the most used DNS service provider i.e. AWS Route 53. DNS is a dynamic concept and an ever-strengthened technology. Simply take the example of Route 53, they still have not integrated the DNSSEC compatibility. And this is a tremendous disadvantage from the standpoint of security.

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