Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Security Authors: Skytap Blog, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Srinivasan Sundara Rajan, John Wetherill

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, SOA & WOA, Web 2.0, Security, Big Data Journal, SDN Journal

Cloud Expo: Article

Is the Cloud a CDN Killer?

Using CDNs and cloud together ensures a best-of-both-worlds combination for an optimal online user experience

In our Internet-driven world, both organizations and consumers have come to expect fast, always-on data access from any device. As a result, content providers are tasked with delivering massive files and streaming media to tablets and smartphones while simultaneously ensuring superior website performance. To meet the challenges of this digital data deluge, Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) are often used to efficiently distribute large amounts of content to online users.

The emergence of cloud computing has allowed companies to embrace new, cost-effective approaches to building out their IT infrastructure. The challenge of scaling is no longer prohibitively expensive, and the ability to do so in near-real time allows small and medium-sized businesses to more effectively compete with larger enterprises for market share.

While the cloud can deliver important agility benefits, it still requires careful, strategic planning to address potential challenges, including security and data bottlenecks. CDNs can help to address these issues, enabling cloud networks to meet today's content delivery demands while satisfying customers' expectations for an optimal online experience. When used together, the cloud and CDNs can actually offer the best of both worlds.

The Role of CDNs
A Content Delivery Network is a distributed network of servers and file storage devices deployed to place content and applications in geographic proximity to users, which reduces the load on origin site infrastructure and bandwidth. CDNs are highly flexible and address a wide range of needs - making it possible to simulate a broadcast video network over the Internet, cache large files for faster delivery or optimize entire websites. A CDN is a critical element of modern infrastructure deployment to create a satisfying online user experience.

One of the core functions of a CDN is to optimize media delivery, which involves the streaming of live events and prerecorded video and audio content. A CDN provides content creators and publishers with a robust infrastructure solution for online media distribution to geographically dispersed end users.

Another key benefit of a CDN is its ability to deliver large files and software without the capital expense of building a global network to achieve sufficient bandwidth. Static site caching (also known as reverse proxy caching) is also a prime feature that allows the CDN to point its distributed network at an origin server and cache the content of that origin in geographically diverse areas through a mechanism called GEO-DNS. Though many factors such as current loads contribute to this routing process, the main factor is the proximity of information. The result is much faster page loads and an improved end-user experience.

CDNs offer a multitude of ways to create a dependable, high-quality online user experience by addressing single-point-of-failure, global delivery and scalability concerns. This raises the question of whether the opportunities created by the cloud impact or even overlap with the capabilities of CDNs. If the cloud offers a more economically feasible way to bring content closer to end users, is the CDN still a useful delivery platform? In a word, yes.

Enter the Cloud
In the days before cloud, the main way to address issues regarding performance, availability and scale was by decreasing the physical distance between the origin servers and the end users. Existing infrastructure was optimized and then physically replicated in other geographic locations. Aside from the large capital investments required by this approach, there were other drawbacks and challenges - while companies controlled their infrastructure, they had no control over the network between their servers and the end user, and also had to determine how to replicate their data globally.

The cloud offers businesses a less costly way to expand infrastructure - the ability to scale virtually, on demand, without having to build or buy costly hardware. Businesses can now replicate their infrastructure in the desired geographic locations by purchasing a virtual machine with the required specifications - essentially, buying a "slice" of someone else's pre-built infrastructure. This proves a more cost-effective way to scale and reduce latency for geographically dispersed areas.

Both the cloud and CDNs have evolved into utility platforms, each designed for specialized purposes. The cloud is a utility computing platform consisting of large physical stacks of computational resources or multi-tenant slices of a pre-built mass computational array. This type of dynamic computing power is ideal for processing big data and business intelligence problems, and evolved from the concept of mainframes.

Conversely, a CDN is a utility delivery platform, specializing in one-to-many distribution as opposed to the two-way interactive exchange performed by utility compute platforms. In contrast to the cloud, CDNs are designed specifically to deliver content from servers to the end users as part of a repeatable process. While dynamic content needs to be computed, large amounts of static content also need to be delivered, but only the dynamic portion needs to come from the origin.

Using cloud and CDNs together creates a holistic system that meets the demands for content delivery as well as economical computing power.

CDN POPs and Cloud Availability Zones
Contrary to what the name implies, the cloud has a physical structure, and the proximity and placement of equipment will have an impact on the results. Users in different latitudes/longitudes will have different online experiences depending on their physical distance from the point of origin. Regardless of the provider, most choose to offer cloud availability by region as opposed to state or metropolitan area. Architecturally, having multiple availability zones for cloud and CDNs is beneficial to localize transactions and reduce latency.

Using a CDN extends the reach of the origin server and places cached website content, multimedia or other large files in closer proximity to the end user. CDNs accomplish this by using origin and edge POPs (Points of Presence) that have storage, caching and transfer capabilities. Incoming requests for content are intercepted by the DNS service, which verifies the user's location, and the content is then delivered from the closest POP. By distributing content via a one-to-many repeatable process, end users can consume content more efficiently without increasing the load on origin site infrastructure.

If a POP becomes overwhelmed, the request is routed to the next available POP, which then fulfills the request for content. In either scenario, the POP distributes the local copy via the most efficient route without placing any burden on the origin server. CDN POPs allow for scale during traffic spikes, whereas a server can become overwhelmed and vulnerable once a certain threshold of concurrent interactions is reached.

How CDNs Can Accelerate Cloud Deployments
Without CDNs, the cloud would not be able to meet the performance expectations of today's online users. In fact, CDNs can help alleviate many obstacles to cloud adoption by addressing several key concerns:

Security. A CDN can help ward off raw volume DDoS attacks that can leave web servers inaccessible to users. CDNs essentially absorb the load and prevent the servers from becoming overwhelmed by abnormally high traffic volume. Without a CDN to act as a buffer against these attacks, cloud servers would be exponentially more vulnerable. This is particularly important for eCommerce websites with servers that store personal data and account information.

Availability of service. If an eCommerce server goes down, the effect will not be immediately apparent if content is cached in CDN POPs. By setting Time to Live (TTL), content providers can control how long a piece of static content will remain cached. Determining TTL depends on the nature of the content and how often it needs to change. CDN edge POPs will continue to deliver the cached content for this duration and will check with the server after this time period expires to see if the content has changed.

Data transfer bottlenecks. CDNs help prevent data transfer bottlenecks by efficiently delivering content through multiple egress points to distribute the load. By leveraging a CDN, businesses can scale the egress throughput, which allows the core infrastructure to use its bandwidth for the compute traffic.

Performance assurance. With the growing use of tablets, smartphones and other devices, content providers must be able to deliver streaming media and large amounts of data with minimal latency, or risk losing customers to the competition. Though the smartphone and tablet industry owes its existence to the capabilities of the cloud, delivering a high-quality user experience would not be possible without a CDN. Once content is cached in a CDN POP, a repeatable process delivers content from one-to-many, resulting in lower latency for end users and better server performance.

Scalable storage. CDN file storage devices offer flexibility options that scale as needed. In contrast, cloud storage is available in fixed amounts that can only be scaled up or down by contacting your cloud storage provider. CDN storage devices can scale up based on the size of the content packet to be distributed, resulting in increased operational agility for the business.

Scaling. A CDN increases the capacity of infrastructure, which means servers won't get overwhelmed when video goes viral or when an eCommerce website experiences unexpected traffic spikes. The ability to offload rich media to the CDN allows the compute platform to run more efficiently, and by shouldering the load, the CDN reduces the risk of web servers becoming overwhelmed.

Cloud-CDN Use Cases
Organizations within most industries can benefit from using the cloud and CDNs simultaneously, particularly those with high-performance and low latency requirements as well as a geographically dispersed user base. Below are several common use case examples:

Online Gaming. Low latency, high performance and scalability are mission-critical for multi-player online video games. If players experience downtime or delays, they will quickly abandon the game in search of a new one. Using a CDN can create a high-quality game-playing experience through more efficient content delivery and by helping to manage traffic spikes.

Media and entertainment/OTT content providers. More consumers are choosing to watch their favorite shows and movies via online channels instead of traditional distribution networks. As a result, the ability to efficiently and securely stream video to global locations is critical for the media and entertainment industry as well as OTT (over-the-top) video providers.

Online retail. Website performance, availability, security and scalability are critical factors for online retailers. If content is slow to load or unavailable, consumers will simply take their business elsewhere. For companies that generate most of their revenue online, even minimal downtime can have drastic effects on profits and consumer loyalty. CDNs improve website availability by allowing consumers to browse online catalogs with little server interaction. Offloading the rich media content onto the CDN allows the cloud servers to perform better, resulting in a more efficient purchasing process for consumers.

Cloud and CDN: Symbiotic Relationship
Even though the cloud revolutionized IT infrastructure from a cost perspective, cloud adoption has actually created an increased need for CDNs. The massive amounts of computing power now available via the cloud requires efficient content distribution to meet user expectations. While the cloud allows companies to extend the reach of origin sites into new geographic areas, the result is greater demand for improved performance.

The line between the cloud and CDNs has indeed become blurry, and whether they will continue to exist as we know them today remains to be seen. If they eventually merge into a single platform for the deployment of global applications, the resulting combination of massive computing and delivery capabilities will fundamentally change the face of the Internet.

Regardless of the technology platform and changes that may occur, in today's global economy, high-performance content delivery is a must for any website or online application serving geographically dispersed end users. Using CDNs and cloud together - in whatever form this ultimately takes - ensures a best-of-both-worlds combination for an optimal online user experience.

More Stories By Pete Mastin

Pete Mastin is the vice president of Performance IP and Content Delivery Network services at Internap. He has more than 20 years of experience in software development, project management and operations, with a focus on digital content management and delivery since 1998. Prior to Internap, Pete served as CTO for MulticastMedia where he developed and deployed an Online Video Platform (Media Suite) and an award-winning transcoding platform. He has spoken at a number of industry events on the subject of digital content management and delivery, including Streaming Media, NAB, Digital Hollywood and TMC’s IT EXPO.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
When it comes to the Internet of Things, hooking up will get you only so far. If you want customers to commit, you need to go beyond simply connecting products. You need to use the devices themselves to transform how you engage with every customer and how you manage the entire product lifecycle. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, will show how “product relationship management” can help you leverage your connected devices and the data they generate about customer usage and product performance to deliver extremely compelling and reliabl...
The explosion of connected devices / sensors is creating an ever-expanding set of new and valuable data. In parallel the emerging capability of Big Data technologies to store, access, analyze, and react to this data is producing changes in business models under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular within the Insurance industry, IoT appears positioned to enable deep changes by altering relationships between insurers, distributors, and the insured. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Sick, a Senior Manager and Big Data Architect within Ernst and Young's Financial Servi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Open Data Centers (ODC), a carrier-neutral colocation provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Open Data Centers is a carrier-neutral data center operator in New Jersey and New York City offering alternative connectivity options for carriers, service providers and enterprise customers.
The IoT market is projected to be $1.9 trillion tidal wave that’s bigger than the combined market for smartphones, tablets and PCs. While IoT is widely discussed, what not being talked about are the monetization opportunities that are created from ubiquitous connectivity and the ensuing avalanche of data. While we cannot foresee every service that the IoT will enable, we should future-proof operations by preparing to monetize them with extremely agile systems.
There’s Big Data, then there’s really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. Learn about IoT, Big Data and deployments processing massive data volumes from wearables, utilities and other machines.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CodeFutures, a leading supplier of database performance tools, has been named a “Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. CodeFutures is an independent software vendor focused on providing tools that deliver database performance tools that increase productivity during database development and increase database performance and scalability during production.
The explosion of connected devices / sensors is creating an ever-expanding set of new and valuable data. In parallel the emerging capability of Big Data technologies to store, access, analyze, and react to this data is producing changes in business models under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular within the Insurance industry, IoT appears positioned to enable deep changes by altering relationships between insurers, distributors, and the insured. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Sick, a Senior Manager and Big Data Architect within Ernst and Young's Financial Servi...
PubNub on Monday has announced that it is partnering with IBM to bring its sophisticated real-time data streaming and messaging capabilities to Bluemix, IBM’s cloud development platform. “Today’s app and connected devices require an always-on connection, but building a secure, scalable solution from the ground up is time consuming, resource intensive, and error-prone,” said Todd Greene, CEO of PubNub. “PubNub enables web, mobile and IoT developers building apps on IBM Bluemix to quickly add scalable realtime functionality with minimal effort and cost.”
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Intelligent Systems Services will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Established in 1994, Intelligent Systems Services Inc. is located near Washington, DC, with representatives and partners nationwide. ISS’s well-established track record is based on the continuous pursuit of excellence in designing, implementing and supporting nationwide clients’ mission-critical systems. ISS has completed many successful projects in Healthcare, Commercial, Manufacturing, ...
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
DevOps tends to focus on the relationship between Dev and Ops, putting an emphasis on the ops and application infrastructure. But that’s changing with microservices architectures. In her session at DevOps Summit, Lori MacVittie, Evangelist for F5 Networks, will focus on how microservices are changing the underlying architectures needed to scale, secure and deliver applications based on highly distributed (micro) services and why that means an expansion into “the network” for DevOps.
For years, we’ve relied too heavily on individual network functions or simplistic cloud controllers. However, they are no longer enough for today’s modern cloud data center. Businesses need a comprehensive platform architecture in order to deliver a complete networking suite for IoT environment based on OpenStack. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dhiraj Sehgal from PLUMgrid will discuss what a holistic networking solution should really entail, and how to build a complete platform that is scalable, secure, agile and automated.
We’re no longer looking to the future for the IoT wave. It’s no longer a distant dream but a reality that has arrived. It’s now time to make sure the industry is in alignment to meet the IoT growing pains – cooperate and collaborate as well as innovate. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, will examine the key ingredients to IoT success and identify solutions to challenges the industry is facing. The deep industry expertise behind this presentation will provide attendees with a leading edge view of rapidly emerging IoT oppor...
In the consumer IoT, everything is new, and the IT world of bits and bytes holds sway. But industrial and commercial realms encompass operational technology (OT) that has been around for 25 or 50 years. This grittier, pre-IP, more hands-on world has much to gain from Industrial IoT (IIoT) applications and principles. But adding sensors and wireless connectivity won’t work in environments that demand unwavering reliability and performance. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ron Sege, CEO of Echelon, will discuss how as enterprise IT embraces other IoT-related technology trends, enterprises with i...
When it comes to the Internet of Things, hooking up will get you only so far. If you want customers to commit, you need to go beyond simply connecting products. You need to use the devices themselves to transform how you engage with every customer and how you manage the entire product lifecycle. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, will show how “product relationship management” can help you leverage your connected devices and the data they generate about customer usage and product performance to deliver extremely compelling and reliabl...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is causing data centers to become radically decentralized and atomized within a new paradigm known as “fog computing.” To support IoT applications, such as connected cars and smart grids, data centers' core functions will be decentralized out to the network's edges and endpoints (aka “fogs”). As this trend takes hold, Big Data analytics platforms will focus on high-volume log analysis (aka “logs”) and rely heavily on cognitive-computing algorithms (aka “cogs”) to make sense of it all.
The Internet of Everything (IoE) brings together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before – transforming information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. IoE creates new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented opportunities to improve business and government operations, decision making and mission support capabilities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Gary Hall, Chief Technology Officer, Federal Defense at Cisco Systems, will break down the core capabilities of IoT in multiple settings and expand upon IoE for bo...
With several hundred implementations of IoT-enabled solutions in the past 12 months alone, this session will focus on experience over the art of the possible. Many can only imagine the most advanced telematics platform ever deployed, supporting millions of customers, producing tens of thousands events or GBs per trip, and hundreds of TBs per month. With the ability to support a billion sensor events per second, over 30PB of warm data for analytics, and hundreds of PBs for an data analytics archive, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Kaskade, Vice President and General Manager, Big Data & Ana...