A blue world map with several green dots marking important internet interconnection points.

Where are the managed IP-anycast VPS service providers?

There’s a reasonably competitive market for Virtual Private Servers (VPS) where companies compete on offering cheap VPSes in data centers located all over the world. However, having a server close to the end-user won’t do you any good unless you also have an efficient way to route customers to the nearest data center.

Most network nodes are unicast, having a single IP address advertised from one place on the internet. Everyone everywhere in the world route to that one location when they try to connect to it. An anycast IP address works the same way, except that it’s being advertised from multiple locations (or data centers) and internet exchanges around the world will pick the shortest route when connecting people to that IP address.

So why aren’t there any VPS providers offering managed anycast IP addresses to enable and encourage their customers to buy even more VPSes? There are a couple of VPS providers, like Vultr, that offer to do BGP announcements. However, that requires you to acquire and manage IP space of your (at least a /24 subnet). This is both technically challenging and quite costly, now that IPv4 space is entirely depleted.

Ideally, I’d like to see VPS providers offer IP addresses out of a shared IP anycast subnet; where customers could lease one address that would route to the closest of their VPSes. This is for sure a much more complex setup than unicast IPs. However, it also greatly increases the value for each customer in renting VPSes in multiple regions from the same provider. The increased infrastructure cost would pay for itself once the provider could upsell their customers with VPSes in all (or at least more) of their data centers.

I haven’t found any public signs of plans for adding IP anycast support from any of the market leading multi-datacenter VPS providers like Digital Ocean or Linode. These services have large and increasing numbers of data centers all over the world, but don’t offer a sensible way to make use of them. A managed IP anycast solution would, if packaged and sold in a convenient form, greatly increase the practical value to the customers of having VPS instances in multiple data centers.

There’s currently only one small provider offering this type of product: BuyVM sells an IPv4-only anycast VPS package starting at 60 USD/year with one VPS in Luxembourg, Europe, and one each in Last Vegas and New Jersey, USA. I’ve kept my eye on BuyVM for some time, but they’ve been “out of stock” for years.

There was another VPS provider who made a brief appearance on the market between August 2018 and April 2019: Aulerion offered competitively priced VPS in eight locations in Europe and North America with managed anycast IP addresses. I’d been working on a list of cool things I’d like to experiment with over anycast when they abruptly ceased operations. Unfortunately, they shut down services in April 2019 following a distributed denial of service attack that drained the company of funds.

You can still utilize multi-datacenter VPS setups with GeoDNS (see my budget GeoDNS provider comparison). However, GeoDNS is generally incompatible with DNSSEC as it requires the DNS provider to change the response pending on the users’ geographical location. GeoDNS accuracy has also gone down in recent years as people have stopped using their ISP’s DNS services in favor of other public DNS resolvers.