VP of Global Marketing for Varnish Software Varnish Software
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Rebooting your content delivery strategy: 7 points

27th Mar 2017
VP of Global Marketing for Varnish Software Varnish Software
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A company’s success or failure in the digital economy hinges on many factors. However, performance is the one key thing companies must get right. More specifically, companies have to nail the ability to deliver content fast enough to prevent visitors leaving their site - every time.

Slow content delivery can happen for a number of reasons, but primarily it’s the scale of the internet itself and the complexity of its underlying architecture. The downside to the internet being a decentralized ‘network of networks’ linked together by TCP/ IP protocols is that you never know which way your content will travel through it, making fast content delivery challenging to guarantee. Content delivery networks (CDN) arose as a response to this inherent weakness.

CDNs are typically offered by external providers that deliver the content through their networks, guaranteeing better performance, higher availability and more security than the anarchic internet. They are distributed systems of servers across many data centers, with an origin server at the centre. A CDN can provide a protective layer, shielding the origin from attacks or overloads. One of the technologies used for this purpose is caching. A CDN can cache the content closer to the user instead of the user having to connect to the origin server. This speeds up content delivery.

New approach 1: CDNs with extra caching layer at the origin server

Lately, more advanced CDN providers have started to add an extra layer of cache at their origin servers as well. They use third-party, best-of-breed solutions to increase the performance of their origin servers and then apply their own solution at the remote servers on the edge to deliver global scale, reach, offload, and integrated security and acceleration capabilities. The concept has been proven and works well. However this might not be the ideal solution for companies that require lots of flexibility in their content delivery.

New approach 2: Private CDNs

Another approach is to develop a private, DIY CDN. Effectively, this means that you build your own network of distributed servers (or use existing ones). This approach makes sense for companies that have the resources already in place - typically big internet service providers or broadcasters that have the necessary expertise and know-how internally to maintain their private CDNs.

New approach 3: Hybrid CDNs

Another approach is a hybrid model where the CDN is complemented with private content delivery through the cloud. In such a hybrid architecture, the traffic is dynamically directed between the commercial CDN and the private cloud. This is much more cost-efficient than building a private CDN but also requires a certain level of know-how.

7 points to consider when rebooting your content delivery strategy

Having worked closely with organisations like Tesla and SFR that were seeking alternatives to traditional CDNs and having seen our software integrated by CDN providers to speed up their infrastructure, we have compiled seven points to consider when devising a modern and sustainable content delivery strategy:

  1. Flexibility: With a CDN it's the provider that is in control of the content and determines the way it is delivered to end users. The points of delivery are fixed and allow little flexibility. This “one-size-fits-all” approach has been proven but doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.
  2. Control: Better control over the delivery of your content and its itinerary can make a lot of sense from a business perspective. You might have customers or certain content that you want to serve first because of premium offerings or special campaigns. With a CDN, you do not have the control to decide what or to whom to serve first. With a private CDN, you are in control of these parameters. And using a hybrid model you can move critical content and its delivery to your own cloud as well as define their delivery requirements.
  3. Performance: CDNs tend to locate their servers in the same places (i.e. large cities in major countries). As a result, during high traffic periods, they share the same peering relationships, which may lead to congestion. You can solve this issue by using modern CDN solutions that include an extra cache layer at their origins. With a private CDN you solve this problem by adding more hardware in regions that are strategically important for you and your business. A local private cloud allows you to reach the more far-flung audience centers and increase your ability to deliver content when the CDNs are overwhelmed.
  4. Coherence: No CDN provider covers all regions and geographies, which means that you may struggle to provide a consistent user experience in regions strategically important for your business. This issue is best addressed with a private CDN.
  5. Costs: CDN providers usually charge you for bandwidth. Every additional gigabyte of traffic delivered will cost you more. Using a private cloud, the capital investment is significantly lowered as well as the operational costs incurred. Many companies find that they can achieve significant cost savings by offloading expensive CDN transit to less expensive internally managed cloud transit.
  6. Scale: At scale, companies like Netflix, Apple and Facebook have already built their private CDNs. This gives them increased control, visibility, and the ability to place their servers based on their own unique needs, rather than the generalized needs of a CDN’s entire customer base. The same flexibility to scale is possible with a hybrid model.
  7. Security: Many customers find that having their valuable content on a multi-tenant CDN is not optimal for security. A private cloud structure, on the other hand, can act as a firewall to provide valuable protection against DDoS and other malicious attacks.

In summary, private CDNs offer companies a lot of advantages. In addition to the ability to control their own content and delivery costs, the flexibility, scalability and coherence in user experience delivered by a private or hybrid CDN is unmatched. These solutions are ideal for companies that have the hardware and human resources needed to set them up and keep them running.

In the internet economy, the ability to deliver content fast to your users can make all the difference to your company’s viability. The worst approach is to do nothing. Hopefully these seven points will help you to evaluate the solutions that best fits your needs.

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