CDNs: their growing importance in business networks

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Modern content delivery networks support hybrid networking by prioritizing and securing Internet traffic based on importance, location, device and user.

As the network has become integral to everything businesses do, enterprises are moving way beyond the straightforward provision of access to applications and data hosted in corporate data centers. They are now also providing seamless connectivity to internet and cloud applications for users on many types of device.

That shift is reflected in the changing role of a content delivery network (CDN) and the emergence of hybrid networking, which brings together new use cases, increased bandwidth demands, software as a service (SaaS), security and compliance as well as management and cost control.

Operators are using CDNs to support a wide variety of enterprise services. This is reflected in predictions from analyst firm Informa, which reports the CDN market will be worth US$6.9 billion in 2017, having experienced a compound annual growth rate of 14% in the period 2012-2017.

evolution of technology

CDNs were initially a relatively simple proposition that enabled enterprises to cache static content or data near to the end user to accelerate download speed. For an enterprise, that meant users could access content more easily but having accessed it, there wasn’t much else to do. Interactions still required communication with the originating server. A large number of CDN providers sprung up to address this need to eliminate the world wide wait associated with downloading content in the days of dial-up internet.

“In those early days, CDNs were a fairly basic solution to the problem,” explains John Dillon, the vice president of marketing for EMEA at Akamai. “CDNs just duplicated and cached content close to the end user so, rather than going to the origin server, user requests would be directed to a local server.”

The next developmental step for CDNs was when enterprises started to put applications in the cloud. CDNs started to be used to assure the availability of applications and corporate data across the enterprise user base regardless of the user’s device type or location. These situational CDNs need to take into consideration what app the user is trying to gain access to, what the current network status is and what type of device the user is on.

supporting hybrid networks

CDNs are now starting to be applied in hybrid networking, which combines IP-VPNs and the internet to deliver better performance, worldwide application of security policy, optimized transport costs and security.

Orange Business Services has embraced the usage of CDNs. In late 2012, it entered into an agreement with Akamai to use its Aura network solutions to provide customers access to Akamai’s optimization and acceleration technologies. The two companies have brought together Akamai’s internet acceleration expertise with Orange’s network capabilities and are jointly exploring areas of innovation to bring new services to market.

“We see great potential in this partnership,” said Gilles Prunier, senior vice president in charge of the Smart Networks program at Orange, when the partnership was announced. “Developing an Orange CDN service, powered by Akamai, [enriches] our existing B2B services portfolio and to support our customers’ growth by providing them with new and differentiated web features that improve the end-user experience and ultimately increase customer loyalty.”

online video

Since then, it has become clear than online video is a driver for CDN usage. Informa reports that online video will be greatest contributor to the growth of the CDN market and will account for 81% of the total 2017 revenue of the CDN market.

That’s borne out by Dailymotion, one of the biggest video platforms in the world, which uses CDNs to optimize live streaming of sports and gaming events for its partners. The media delivery solution implemented by Orange Business Services and Akamai uses a network of servers to accelerate the distribution of video content over the internet - enabling users to watch high-quality live video content online, regardless of device.

“Some of the recent developments such as hybrid networking use [CDNs] to help enterprises get a near-MPLS level of service from public internet connectivity,” adds Akamai’s Dillon. “It’s not quite as good as MPLS because that is 100% controlled by the operator, but it is a significant improvement over the internet.”

Enterprises are now not just looking at CDNs to accelerate their websites and application access. They see applications in security and in new markets such as the Internet of Things. Given that statistics from Orange customers showed that 40% of WAN traffic is now carrying traffic that was destined for the internet and WAN traffic in total is growing by 21% year on year, further burdens will be placed on CDNs and hybrid networking as business users start to upload more data, changing the profile of network traffic.

Find out more about network services including CDNs from Orange Business Services. Read this white paper and check out this infographic to find out about our approach to hybrid networks.