Amazon Route 53 is a highly available and scalable DNS service offered by AWS. Like any DNS service, Route 53 handles domain registration and routes users’ Internet requests to your application – whether it’s hosted on AWS or elsewhere.
But Route 53 also intelligently directs traffic based on sophisticated routing policies and, through automated health checks, away from servers that might be failing.
Like many AWS services, Route 53 is a pay-as-you-go service. You will be charged for the number of hosted zones you create and maintain and by the number of requests routed.
In my previous post, I discussed some of the basics of how DNS works. Now we will explore the value that Route 53 can create for your domain needs and why and how you might want to migrate your domains over to Route 53.
Why you should consider migrating to Route 53
Once you’ve got your domain up and running, you can choose a routing policy that best fits your needs. To get the most out of the service however, you’ll need to properly understand the function of each policy type.
Simple Routing Policy
This is the most common and, as the name suggests, simplest routing type. If, say, your application server has a public IP address of 192.168.0.161, and you’d like to use the human readable address of amazon.com (assuming it’s available, of course), then you would use Route 53 to map amazon.com to your IP. From then on, any browser requests for amazon.com would be directed to 192.168.0.161.
Weighted Routing Policy
By assigning different numeric weights (or “priorities”) to multiple servers providing a web service, you can direct a higher or lower percentage of your incoming traffic to one particular server over another. This kind of routing can be useful for load balancing and testing new versions of a software package.
Latency based Routing Policy
A latency based policy directs traffic requests to the server that will be able to respond with the lowest possible latency (delay). You could, for instance, run your application in multiple AWS regions, and Route 53 will automatically route users to those that will deliver the quickest.
Fail-over Routing Policy
A fail-over policy will send all traffic to the server you set as primary for as long as that server is still healthy. If, however, health checks determine that it’s failing, traffic will be diverted to a designated backup resource.
Geo-location Routing Policy
This policy lets you designate resource targets based on your users’ geographic location. So, for example, you might want all queries from India to be routed to a server located in the same physical region in order to limit latency.
Some Route 53 features
Domain Registration. You can purchase domains from all top level domains (.com, .net, .org, etc.) directly from route 53, avoiding the need to migrate altogether. Route 53 also provides privacy protection for your WHOIS record at no extra charge.
Private DNS. Private DNS records let you create private hosted zones and route traffic using easily managed domain names within your VPCs. This can, for instance, allow you to quickly switch between IP-based resources without the need to update multiple embedded links.
Health Check. Route 53 monitors the health of your application and, when an outage is detected, redirects users to a healthy resource.
AWS service integration. Route 53 is tightly integrated with Elastic Load Balancing (ELB), CloudFront, and S3. You can easily route traffic to an ELB CNAME record, a static website hosted on S3, or generate custom domains for your CloudFront URLs.
Alias Records. Instead of an IP address, an alias resource record can, for instance, point directly to a CloudFront distribution, ELB load balancer, or Amazon S3 bucket. This way, even if the IP addresses of the underlying resources should change, traffic will still be sent to the correct endpoint.
- Leave your domain name with your own registrar: If you would like to use Route 53’s routing features, but have no need to move your domain name from its current registrar, you simply need give your registrar the new name server addresses you’ll get from Route 53 upon creating a hosted zone. Once you have updated your name servers with your own providers, Route 53 will ensure the routing of all new domain requests through its own name servers.
- Migrate your domain name to Route 53: When you decided to migrate, you will need get the DNS record data from your DNS provider. You will then import this data to a Route 53 hosted zone, and replace the registrar’s name server records with AWS name servers that you get by clicking on “GethostedZone”. Depending on your TTL settings, changes will take place within 24 to 48 hours.
Amazon Route 53 benefits
When evaluating DNS providers, look into cost, uptimes, service-level agreements, response times and limitations. Look for features such as IPv6 support, record types, application programming interfaces (APIs) and security. These are some of the Amazon Route 53 benefits for domains and DNS:
- Speed: With the help of the global Anycast network and DNS servers present worldwide in AWS data centers, the nearest DNS server addresses any query directed to the domain.
- Traffic-based routing: Requests route to instances in the AWS region with the lowest traffic or latency. Administrators can configure more diverse region-based routing with the Create Record Set option.
- AWS API support: Route 53 provides the ability to change the DNS, a process that operations teams can automate and manage using Amazon APIs.
- Cost: With geographic latency-based routing, it costs $0.60 to $0.70 for about one million queries with Amazon Route 53. Other DNS vendor prices can reach tens of dollars.
- Failover: The IT organization can use Route 53 to monitor the health of web tiers for around $0.75 a month.
- Manage subdomains: Some providers, such as GoDaddy, do not allow wildcard subdomains for a few sets of records. Route 53 allows the wildcard for any record. Ops just needs to provide the A record or the CNAME to the host. Then wildcard subdomain operation is similar to creating any other entry in the DNS server.
- Integration with AWS Identity and Access Management: Amazon Route 53 allows ops to provide credentials for specified users to secure web tiers with IAM integration.
Domain and DNS together on AWS with Route 53 provides the most benefits compared to other deployment methods. This setup provides various options to manage domains easily and efficiently. With multiple geographically located DNS servers, Route 53 experiences minimal downtime compared to other vendors; GoDaddy’s uptime is 99.7%, while Amazon’s is 100%.
Domain management comes down to individual requirements. If your organization runs a small blog and there’s no incentive to take uptime from 99% to 99.95%, it might be preferable to go with a cheaper option, such as GoDaddy. But if performance, uptime and security are priorities — and your site already runs on AWS — the Amazon Route 53 benefits likely make it a better choice to manage domains.