As the popularity of trends like Continuous Delivery, DevOps, and IaaS underscore, businesses today need to be agile in order to compete in an era of rapid change and innovation. Whether it’s flash sales and daily deals, real-time inventory and pricing changes, or promotional events and product launches, sites are updating features and content ever more frequently — and site infrastructure needs to keep up.
The CDN of today and tomorrow needs to facilitate agility. For some, this means the ability to integrate CDN platform controls and data feeds directly into their DevOps workflow. For others, it means the ability to leverage dedicated CDN expertise to secure and optimize their site so that in-house resources can focus elsewhere. In all cases, it requires a CDN that seamlessly enhances their existing origin and cloud infrastructures while offering the flexibility to offer optimal solutions for a highly diverse set of business use cases – enabling the organization to innovate without bounds.
Fast and Flexible Control
As a baseline, agile business requires an agile CDN platform – one that gives its customers self-serviceable control over its sophisticated capabilities. This is achieved through a combination of features:
- Advanced cache control, with the ability to define cache keys and cache control rules at a very granular level, maximizing caching benefits while ensuring fresh content.
- Fast purge capabilities that can expunge content across a widely distributed network within a matter of seconds.
- Flexible content handling rules that offer granular control over advanced CDN capabilities such as header and cookie handling, performance optimizations, failover behavior, access control, and edge logic.
- Fast configuration deployment, enabling cache control and content handling rules to be safely updated across the network within minutes.
While some platforms may have partial capabilities like fast purge, the most powerful CDNs offer all four of the above features, working in concert to deliver the greatest flexibility in meeting different business needs. For example, a website launching a big promotion at a specific time can use a CDN’s purge capabilities to remove old content at that time – ensuring fresh, new promotional content within minutes or even seconds of launch. However, a more advanced CDN platform also offers alternatives to better ensure the success of such an important event – such as the ability to easily stage and test the new content on the live network, the ability to prewarm the network for greater origin offload at launch, and the use of a time-based rule to trigger delivery of the new content starting precisely at the desired time.
Robust Support for Testing and Canary Deployments
Just as critical as the ability to deploy changes quickly is the ability to test those changes in a safe and streamlined manner, particularly as organizations move toward Continuous Delivery methodologies and faster, more frequent release cycles. CDNs should facilitate this, not only through staging and test networks but also through safeguards like real-time configuration error checking and support for canary deployments, with the ability to easily roll out (and roll back) new site content in phases, live-testing it with subsets of users before a full-scale rollout takes place.
Full-featured APIs and Reporting
Secure API access to CDN management capabilities allows organizations to further streamline their development process through tight integration of CDN functions like purge, traffic management, failover, and configuration. For example, some of Akamai’s customers have integrated purge calls into their content management systems (CMS) so content updates automatically trigger removal of the old content from the Akamai network. Others have broader API integrations where new content is automatically configured within the CMS with the appropriate configuration rules – ranging from caching and cookie handling to mobile device optimization.
CDNs have also become a key source of visibility into real-time usage, performance, and security metrics across an organization’s entire infrastructure. To help customers better understand and optimize their online presence, the CDN of today and tomorrow must offer access to their rich, real-time data feeds – both through their own customizable tools and visual interfaces as well as through APIs that enable easy integration into the organization’s existing reporting and analytics infrastructure. In addition, CDN providers may provide out-of-the-box plugins to leading third-party performance management solutions.
Dedicated Expertise and Managed Services
Hiring 24/7 staff with the right skillset and expertise to maintain robust site performance and security is costly and time consuming, and many companies simply do not have the resources to do so. However, by partnering with the right CDN provider, organizations can continue focusing on their core business competencies while leveraging the CDN’s expert resources to optimize their web applications and online events. Leading CDN providers offer 1) teams with deep experience who have helped to deliver the Internet’s biggest events and mitigate its largest attacks, 2) options for dedicated support with response SLAs, and 3) core expertise in several key areas:
- Managed delivery services, providing proactive performance analysis to boost conversion rates and reduce abandonment as well as ongoing performance testing, with synthetic and real user monitoring tools to rapidly identify and resolve delivery issues before they impact business.
- Managed broadcast services, with 24/7 real-time monitoring across the entire encoding-through-playback workflow, allowing organizations to deliver the highest quality video experience to every audience member. Here, the CDN of today and tomorrow sets itself apart not only through the expertise and experience of its services team but through the sophistication of its monitoring tools. Proactive system component assessments, content integrity and delivery checks, and real-time QoS feedback across the entire viewing audience enable early detection of quality issues along with speedy troubleshooting and resolution.
- Managed security services, offering customized WAF rule-set updates, early threat detection, rapid-response attack mitigation, and post-threat recommendations. As today’s cyberattacks are more sophisticated than ever before – often shifting strategies midstream or combining multiple attack vectors – there is no substitute for human expertise in combating live threats, and the right CDN will provide access to highly experienced security specialists, staffed 24/7 around the globe with the tactical expertise to minimize an attack’s business impact.
- Website consulting services, providing an opportunity for companies to leverage CDN proficiency in business-critical areas such as site performance optimization, business continuity risk mitigation, and security vulnerability assessment. Specialists can assist organizations in redesigning or migrating site architecture, preparing for an event or holiday, or expanding internationally – providing the expertise to help minimize time to market and maximize success.