NS1, Amplified: Three Leaders Share How the DNS Company Achieved 10 Years of Growth Heading Into Its Future With IBM

To celebrate a decade in existence, Co-Founder and Chief of Staff Alex Vayl and two team members reflect on NS1’s origin story and evolution — and envision its future with IBM.

Written by Jenny Lyons-Cunha
Published on Jul. 13, 2023
NS1, Amplified: Three Leaders Share How the DNS Company Achieved 10 Years of Growth Heading Into Its Future With IBM
Photo by Saskia Uppenkamp
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Early in his tenure as an NS1 DevOps engineer, Ché Ruisi-Besares was sitting at his ad-hoc desk — a folding picnic table — and scrolling through stats when he was struck by something epiphanous: the vastness of the internet. 

“I was seeing hundreds of millions of queries flooding in every second,” Ruisi-Besares said, adding, “This was after recursors had cached them.”

On the other side of each cached query was a person, he conceptualized, looking for something: dinner recommendations on Yelp, a new book on Amazon or vital resources in their area.  

“It was the first time I ever really felt the sheer scale of the people we’re impacting beyond NS1,” he said.

As Ruisi-Besares — now the VP of engineering, emerging technology — sees it, the scrappy, collaborative ethos of NS1, which is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year, lives in these moments. 

“NS1’s take on DNS is an elegant, simple idea — you use graceful, easy-to-understand filter chains to describe your intention,” Ruisi-Besares said. 

As a DNS provider, NS1 serves as a traffic director, guiding users to the servers with the lowest latency when they click on a respective hyperlink. Put simply: The DNS untangles layers of digital information to get the user to their online destination. 

The hierarchical system is often overlooked as a hotspot for tech innovation, but, as it has evolved, the flexibility of DNS empowers app developers to build more freely and consume resources more readily. 

“DNS was designed to collaboratively solve problems of scale for internet access — ISPs and cloud providers see providing DNS resolution to customers as merely the cost of doing business,” Ruisi-Besares said. “These days, there are overlay networks, multiple data centers and more complexity. There are so many nuanced problems to solve beyond, ‘Where on the internet am I going?’”

Contemporary DNS is engrained in the deployment and topology of both apps and websites. With this proliferation and nuance comes the need for increased stability and end-user security  — and a unique opportunity for collaboration.

“We’re not directly routing customers looking for Salesforce, for example, instead we relay information to locally provided recursive servers” Ruisi-Besares expounded. “There’s a massive collaboration that occurs between internet service providers, intermediaries and our clients.” 

Therein lies the joy in Ruisi-Besares’ career — working behind the curtain of an interconnected digital powerhouse.  
 

WHAT NS1 DOES

NS1 is driven by its mission to unlock the potential of DNS to deliver the tech that powers our customers and the world. It strives to be a market leader in DNS and traffic management software and services, serving customers like Salesforce, LinkedIn, Squarespace, Pandora, Imgur, Yelp and Dropbox.

 

NS1 employees working at bench-style desk seating in the office
NS1

 

Thriving in a Strange, New World 

Director of People Maria Heinegg’s career journey at NS1 is a master class in following one’s instincts. 

Once upon another life, Heinegg worked in advertising before being drawn to NS1 by a savvy recruiter.

“I immediately connected with everyone that I met,” Heinegg said. “I followed my instincts, took the HR job and have been here six-and-a-half years.”

While the palpable energy of her hiring managers opened the door to Heinegg’s career at NS1, an infectious spirit of collective drive has kept her within its orbit for the better part of a decade. 

“People care about what they do at NS1 — and they’re great at it,” she said, smiling. 

“And this company has a sense of humor,” she added. “You can tell because they laugh at my jokes.” 

Having climbed the ladder from HR operations manager to director of people, Heinegg has seen many iterations of NS1’s culture — through pandemics, Zoom revolutions and beyond. 

“We were so lucky to have a somewhat recession-proof product in internet utility,” she said. “But it was a risky time, one in which we were able to transition to becoming a fully remote company and flourish.”

Reflecting on her growth, Heinegg perceives her evolution as parallel to NS1’s. “I had the opportunity to grow an incredible amount, while the entire team was able to come together and thrive in a strange, new environment,” she said. 

In meditating upon the exponential development Heinegg has witnessed at NS1, she is adamant about the company’s steadfast culture. 

“Our offerings have changed, and the size of our company has fluctuated, but we’ve remained the same company at heart,” she said. 

 

Candid photo of NS1 staff working at office
NS1

 

A Perfect Match

The soul of NS1 was forged from a sense of hyperfocus and adaptability, recalled Co-Founder and Chief of Staff Alex Vayl.

“What most stands out to me about the beginning of NS1 is how incredibly focused Kris Beevers, Jonathan ‘Sully’ Sullivan and I were — but also how many hats each of us wore,” Vayl reminisced. 

In the early days, Beevers took the helm as CEO and network engineer, Sullivan managed customer success and sales engineering, while Vayl juggled roles spanning sales and marketing to HR. 

Despite early barriers, the dawn of the company cast a lasting glow on the burgeoning team. Vayl recalled tight-knit interactions with NS1’s earliest workforce and its customers, noting that their response to the product drove innovation. 

“Their feedback led to experimentation and new features that are still driving our technical capabilities today,” he said. 

NS1’s progressive spirit will be further amplified by its latest milestone: acquisition by IBM

“We’ve been extremely lucky to work with the IBM team,” said Vayl. “They’ve been very collaborative and supportive — much like NS1, they deeply value innovation and bring incredible new resources to NS1’s arsenal.

“This match is exactly what both parties needed,” he added. 

 

Eyes on the Future

When Ruisi-Besares was recruited for NS1, he harbored a healthy skepticism about the DNS landscape. He was still fresh from his beginnings at Bard College and in the thick of expanding his subnet repertoire at various New York startups when he received the career-altering call. 

“I remember the phone call so vividly — my recruiter and I laugh about it now,” he remembered. “I said, ‘Who cares about DNS?’ 

“In retrospect, I was very wrong,” Ruisi-Besares said, laughing. 

He couldn’t have known then that his career would be driven by the thrill of exploring the emerging elegance of DNS. 

“The throughline of my career here has been continually growing and trying to connect myself with the product in this space,” he said. “When we first started out, we were a team of people expending very intense energy and focus in service of DNS,” he said. “Now we’ve grown to a place where we have immense diversity of thought.” 

These days, Ruisi-Besares is most ignited by NS1’s future with IBM. 

“IBM brings incredible trust to vendors, providers and consumers,” he said. “It allows us to work with an expert in the field of security, vet our position and go to market as a team.”

The global company will amplify the scope of what NS1 can sell and who it can impact — empowering the team to get in front of more problems than ever before, said Ruisi-Besares.

“With our integration into larger portfolios and access to new data points, there are so many more solutions within our grasp,” he said. 

“One day, I was working on a fold-up picnic table — now we’re part of an internet service that is central to the way the world works.” 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Header photo by Saskia Uppenkamp, photos provided by NS1.

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