|By Pete Mastin||
|April 27, 2013 03:00 PM EDT||
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.
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems, described how to revolutionize your archit...
Jul. 30, 2015 07:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,391
For IoT to grow as quickly as analyst firms’ project, a lot is going to fall on developers to quickly bring applications to market. But the lack of a standard development platform threatens to slow growth and make application development more time consuming and costly, much like we’ve seen in the mobile space. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Weiner, Product Manager of the Omega DevCloud with KORE Telematics Inc., discussed the evolving requirements for developers as IoT matures and conducted a live demonstration of how quickly application development can happen when the need to comply wit...
Jul. 30, 2015 07:15 PM EDT Reads: 296
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Jul. 30, 2015 03:45 PM EDT Reads: 446
MuleSoft has announced the findings of its 2015 Connectivity Benchmark Report on the adoption and business impact of APIs. The findings suggest traditional businesses are quickly evolving into "composable enterprises" built out of hundreds of connected software services, applications and devices. Most are embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) and microservices technologies like Docker. A majority are integrating wearables, like smart watches, and more than half plan to generate revenue with APIs within the next year.
Jul. 30, 2015 02:30 PM EDT
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.
Jul. 30, 2015 01:45 PM EDT Reads: 261
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Opening Keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, d...
Jul. 30, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,048
In his keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Rodney Rogers, CEO of Virtustream, discussed the evolution of the company from inception to its recent acquisition by EMC – including personal insights, lessons learned (and some WTF moments) along the way. Learn how Virtustream’s unique approach of combining the economics and elasticity of the consumer cloud model with proper performance, application automation and security into a platform became a breakout success with enterprise customers and a natural fit for the EMC Federation.
Jul. 30, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,153
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed this very serious issue of profound change in the industry.
Jul. 29, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,270
Discussions about cloud computing are evolving into discussions about enterprise IT in general. As enterprises increasingly migrate toward their own unique clouds, new issues such as the use of containers and microservices emerge to keep things interesting. In this Power Panel at 16th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the state of cloud computing today, and what enterprise IT professionals need to know about how the latest topics and trends affect their organization.
Jul. 29, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,181
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society-changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jason Mondanaro, Director, Product Management at Metanga, discussed how you can plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change the world and it starts with business models and monetization strategies.
Jul. 28, 2015 04:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,760
Converging digital disruptions is creating a major sea change - Cisco calls this the Internet of Everything (IoE). IoE is the network connection of People, Process, Data and Things, fueled by Cloud, Mobile, Social, Analytics and Security, and it represents a $19Trillion value-at-stake over the next 10 years. In her keynote at @ThingsExpo, Manjula Talreja, VP of Cisco Consulting Services, discussed IoE and the enormous opportunities it provides to public and private firms alike. She will share what businesses must do to thrive in the IoE economy, citing examples from several industry sectors.
Jul. 28, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,038
There will be 150 billion connected devices by 2020. New digital businesses have already disrupted value chains across every industry. APIs are at the center of the digital business. You need to understand what assets you have that can be exposed digitally, what their digital value chain is, and how to create an effective business model around that value chain to compete in this economy. No enterprise can be complacent and not engage in the digital economy. Learn how to be the disruptor and not the disruptee.
Jul. 27, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,028
Akana has released Envision, an enhanced API analytics platform that helps enterprises mine critical insights across their digital eco-systems, understand their customers and partners and offer value-added personalized services. “In today’s digital economy, data-driven insights are proving to be a key differentiator for businesses. Understanding the data that is being tunneled through their APIs and how it can be used to optimize their business and operations is of paramount importance,” said Alistair Farquharson, CTO of Akana.
Jul. 27, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 318
Business as usual for IT is evolving into a "Make or Buy" decision on a service-by-service conversation with input from the LOBs. How does your organization move forward with cloud? In his general session at 16th Cloud Expo, Paul Maravei, Regional Sales Manager, Hybrid Cloud and Managed Services at Cisco, discusses how Cisco and its partners offer a market-leading portfolio and ecosystem of cloud infrastructure and application services that allow you to uniquely and securely combine cloud business applications and services across multiple cloud delivery models.
Jul. 27, 2015 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,899
The enterprise market will drive IoT device adoption over the next five years. In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Greenough, an analyst at BI Intelligence, division of Business Insider, analyzed how companies will adopt IoT products and the associated cost of adopting those products. John Greenough is the lead analyst covering the Internet of Things for BI Intelligence- Business Insider’s paid research service. Numerous IoT companies have cited his analysis of the IoT. Prior to joining BI Intelligence, he worked analyzing bank technology for Corporate Insight and The Clearing House Payment...
Jul. 26, 2015 09:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,571
"Optimal Design is a technology integration and product development firm that specializes in connecting devices to the cloud," stated Joe Wascow, Co-Founder & CMO of Optimal Design, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Jul. 25, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 386
SYS-CON Events announced today that CommVault has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. A singular vision – a belief in a better way to address current and future data management needs – guides CommVault in the development of Singular Information Management® solutions for high-performance data protection, universal availability and simplified management of data on complex storage networks. CommVault's exclusive single-platform architecture gives companies unp...
Jul. 25, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,957
Electric Cloud and Arynga have announced a product integration partnership that will bring Continuous Delivery solutions to the automotive Internet-of-Things (IoT) market. The joint solution will help automotive manufacturers, OEMs and system integrators adopt DevOps automation and Continuous Delivery practices that reduce software build and release cycle times within the complex and specific parameters of embedded and IoT software systems.
Jul. 25, 2015 12:15 PM EDT Reads: 459
"ciqada is a combined platform of hardware modules and server products that lets people take their existing devices or new devices and lets them be accessible over the Internet for their users," noted Geoff Engelstein of ciqada, a division of Mars International, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Jul. 25, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,531
Internet of Things is moving from being a hype to a reality. Experts estimate that internet connected cars will grow to 152 million, while over 100 million internet connected wireless light bulbs and lamps will be operational by 2020. These and many other intriguing statistics highlight the importance of Internet powered devices and how market penetration is going to multiply many times over in the next few years.
Jul. 25, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,485