New York City based startup NS1 got its start providing organizations with managed DNS services to help accelerate application delivery and reliability. With its new NetBox Cloud service that is being announced in preview today, NS1 is expanding its services into a new area beyond DNS.
It can often be a challenging task for a network administrator in an enterprise to understand where all the networking infrastructure is and how it's all supposed to be connected. That's a job for an emerging class of enterprise technology known as Infrastructure Resource Management (IRM) that NS1 is now jumping into. TechCrunch profiled NS1 in a wide-ranging EC-1 series last month. The company provides DNS as a service, for some of the biggest sites on the internet. DNS, or domain name system is about connecting IP addresses to domain names and NS1 has technology that helps organizations to intelligently optimize application traffic delivery.
With its new NetBox Cloud service, NS1 is providing a managed service for NetBox which is a popular open source IRM tool that was initially built by developer Jeremy Stretch, while he was working at cloud provider DigitalOcean. Stretch joined NS1 as a distinguished engineer in April of this year, with NS1 now supporting the open source project.
Stretch recounted that at one point during his tenure at DigitalOcean he was using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to track IP address management. Using a spreadsheet to track IP addresses doesn't scale, so Stretch coded the initial version of NetBox in 2015 to address that need. Over the last several years, NetBox has expanded with additional capabilities that will now also help users of NS1’s NetBox Cloud service.
Stretch explained that Netbox's role is primarily in modelling network infrastructure in an approach that provides what he referred to as a "source of truth" for network infrastructure. The basic idea is to enable organizations to model their desired state of their networks and then from that point they can draw in monitoring to verify that the operational state is the same as the desired state.
"So the idea of this source of truth is that it is the actual documented authoritative record of what is supposed to be configured on the network," Stretch said.
NetBox has continued to grow over the years as a popular open source tool, but it hasn't been particularly accessible to enterprises that required commercial support to get started, or that wanted a managed service. The goal with the new service is to make it easier for organizations of any size to get started with NetBox to better manage their networks.
NS1 co-founder and CEO Kris Beevers told TechCrunch that while Stretch has done a solid job of building the NetBox open source community, there hasn't been a commercial service for NetBox. Beevers said that while NetBox has had broad adoption as an open source effort, in his view there are a lot of enterprises that will want commercial support and a managed service.
One key theme that Beevers reiterated time and again in the Extra Crunch EC-1 series is that NS1 is very experimental as a business, and that same theme holds true for NetBox. The primary objective for the initial beta release of the NetBox Cloud is all about figuring out exactly who is trying to adopt the technology and learning what challenges commercial users will face. Fundamentally, Beevers said that NS1 will be actively iterating on NetBox Cloud to make sure it addresses the things that enterprises care about.
"From the NS1 point of view, this is just such a compelling open source product and community and we want to drive barriers to adoption as low as we possibly can," Beevers said.
NS1 was founded in 2013 and has raised $118.4 million in funding, including a $40 million Series D which the company closed in July 2020.