Taking Data to the Edge: CDN's Role Grows in the Data Center

We’re taking more and more data to the edge and CDNs are guiding the way.

Bill Kleyman

September 28, 2016

5 Min Read
Taking Data to the Edge: CDN's Role Grows in the Data Center
Netflix headquarters on in Los Gatos, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The first, and probably most important, point to understand is that there is simply more data traversing today’s internet and cloud ecosystems. At the cusp of the digital revolution, businesses and individual users are using more content, richer applications, and improved experiences. At the core of this technological shift is data and our capability to deliver and control its distribution.

A recent Cisco report indicated that metro traffic surpassed long-haul traffic in 2015 and will account for 66% of total IP traffic by 2019. Globally, metro traffic will grow nearly twice as fast as long-haul traffic from 2014 to 2019. The higher growth in metro networks is due in part to the increasingly significant role of content delivery networks (CDNs), which bypass long-haul links and deliver traffic to metro and regional backbones.

Furthermore, the report states that content delivery networks will carry over half of internet traffic by 2019. Globally, 62% of all internet traffic will cross content delivery networks by 2019, up from 39 percent in 2014.

What we’re seeing is a rapid growth in data utilization and the need to consume this data efficiently. The challenge becomes doing all of this as efficiently as possible while containing costs. Many experts will agree: this is one of the prime reasons we’re seeing a huge boom in CDN platforms. Simply put, we’re taking more and more data to the edge and CDNs are guiding the way.

A Growing Market

A recent MarketsAndMarkets report indicated that CDN vendors help organizations in efficiently delivering content to their end users with better QoE and QoS. This segment is expected to grow from $4.95 billion in 2015 to $15.73 Billion in 2020, the report estimates. Still, take this report with a grain of salt as it doesn't really include AWS, Azure or Google. Still - it does demonstrate a growing market.

Another very good report from Dan Rayburn at cdnpricing.com, looking specifically at CDN providers, indicates that those providers generated $3.15B in revenue from media & software delivery in 2015.

In 2014, Apple released its own CDN; Level 3 and Verizon have CDN offerings; even Netflix has its own CDN Open Connect platform; through which it partners with ISPs to deliver content more efficiently. There are many others in the mix as well.

This has placed added pressure on incumbent CDN providers like Akamai. A recent blog outlined how they are already slashing media pricing in effort to fill their network. And, there is plenty of competition in the CDN market, where the data center also has its place:

  • Data centers help harness the power of data and compute. Your data center is part of the cloud; there’s no question about it. Now, whether you’re leveraging your own data center, a colocation provider, or a dedicated data center service, you can still harness the power of your infrastructure for content delivery. Traditionally, housing massive amounts of cache or data just didn’t make sense, or was too expensive. Now, you can create low-cost (and even free) CDN solutions to help control how and where data lives. Most of all, you can use data center interconnects to integrate with other big CDN partners like Amazon CloudFront, Akamai, Azure CDN, Level 3, Yottaa, and many others.

  • CDNs will become a bigger part of the traditional data center in the future. As mentioned earlier, you can integrate CDN solutions into your own data center, or you can create partnerships where you extend your data. CloudFlare, for example, will cache content to its edge locations – to act as a CDN – and then reverse proxy requests and deliver cached content directly from its ecosystem. If you have multiple data centers, you can use your own caching mechanisms or even partner with a CDN to help you deliver the data. The point is that you have options; you don’t have to host all of your data with one CDN provider.

  • Your data center can become a CDN for your business. As mentioned earlier, it’s easier than ever to create powerful CDN environments. And, as more organizations grow their requirements around data, CDN technologies will become even more impactful. If you’re leveraging some type of cloud ecosystem today, there’s a good chance that your cloud provider can offer CDN services as well. Similarly, you can create your own CDN options which specifically aim to optimize business operations. Remember, your data center is an integral part of the business and holds your IT’s most critical resources. If you’re heavily distributed, you can leverage your existing data center sites to create caching engines and enable CDN operations. Similarly, partnering with a CDN provider can unlock the delivery power of your data center and further enhance the overall business.

Cisco’s report pointed out that CDN traffic will deliver over half of all internet video traffic by 2019. And, by 2019, 72% of all Internet video traffic will cross content delivery networks, compared with 57% in 2014.

Moving forward, organizations will need to find better ways to deliver rich content. This can be as simple as training videos for sales people, all the way to rich media (think premium subscription services) being consumed as a service. The point is that you can create CDN environments both within a partner ecosystem and on your own. Still, optimization around network and content delivery is a must. This means working with content delivery platforms which meet your specific requirements. If this is new ground for your organization and IT team, work with a partner; it’ll be worth it.

About the Author(s)

Bill Kleyman

Bill Kleyman has more than 15 years of experience in enterprise technology. He also enjoys writing, blogging, and educating colleagues about tech. His published and referenced work can be found on Data Center Knowledge, AFCOM, ITPro Today, InformationWeek, NetworkComputing, TechTarget, DarkReading, Forbes, CBS Interactive, Slashdot, and more.

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