CDNs carry a significant portion of the world’s Internet traffic. They are ubiquitous in presence and mitigate the toughest challenges of delivering content over the Internet. But why are CDNs so pervasive? Why is it that everyone, from small and medium content providers, to the world’s large corporations rely on CDNs to provide a seamless web experience to their end users? CDNs became an essential tool to successfully conduct business online for one main reason: the Internet was not originally architected to do all of the amazing things that it does today! It simply wasn’t built to handle the demands of massive amount of data, live high definition video, flash sales, and large downloads that people expect today. CDNs were specifically built to make the Internet work better, and to enable all of the connected experiences you can imagine.
The primary benefits of a CDN can be broken into the following three paragraphs.
How do we define performance? Connected content delivered at speed. Performance is difference between a click and immediate access to content and a click followed by a 7 second wait while a page loads or a video buffers.
This helps it overcome the challenges of peering between multiple ISPs, lost packets due to network outages, and the time lost in DNS resolution. Advanced CDNs also have other specific technologies to deal with dynamic, or uncacheable, content.
All of this means that via a CDN, content providers can deliver fast, quality web experiences to all their end users; no matter what location, browser, device, or network they’re connecting from. Webpages render faster, video buffering time is reduced, users stay more engaged, and content providers get more business!
Availability means that content remains accessible to end users under high-stress situations such as excessive user traffic, intermittent spikes, and potential server outages.
When traffic loads peak at millions of requests per second, even the most powerful origin servers would be put to the test. Without a CDN, all this traffic has to be absorbed by a content provider’s origin infrastructure. This can cause the origin to fail, resulting in a terrible end user experience and lost business. That’s when CDNs, with their massively distributed server infrastructure, are of immense value. Advanced CDNs, with their highly distributed architecture and massive server platforms can absorb tens of TBps of traffic and make it possible for content providers to stay available to larger user bases than otherwise possible.
As an example, let’s return to Fashion House X (FHX) in Milan. FHX’s brand is beloved by millions of fashion lovers, and their new line-up generates a lot of excitement. At the moment of launch, fashion lovers from all over the world go online to FHX’s website at the same moment. If FHX is not using a CDN, all of those users would hit their origin server at the same time, causing it to fail. However, if FHX is using a CDN, all of that traffic will be served across the CDN’s hundreds of thousands of servers, keeping FHX’s origin from failing and delivering a quality experience to fashion lovers across the globe.
Users expect the online experience to be always available and always secure — and for their personal and business assets to be safe. As a result, CDNs are evolving to incorporate secure delivery of website assets to any device, over any network. As more data and business processes move online, organizations are challenged to protect websites and infrastructure without sacrificing performance for security. CDNs bring content close to users by extending the security perimeter to the cloud to help protect against increasingly sophisticated web and data center attacks. The most advanced CDN solutions enable retailers to secure their site and customer experience without any impact on performance or reliability. While there are many security threats to retailers, not all of which can be mitigated by a CDN, next generation CDNs should certainly offer solutions to counter some of the most pervasive threats to retailers. For more detailed information, read the Expert section.