With the demand for data exploding across developed and emerging markets, operators need to find ways of facilitating delivery while keeping costs down. Content Delivery Networks are emerging as a viable means of doing this; with a correctly installed CDN, operators are able to increase access bandwidth in order to provide faster access to cached data.
Traditional CDN services encompass content and media services such as caching and video delivery, while newer developments also accelerate dynamic applications and content.
While data use is booming in emerging markets, connections can struggle to keep up. The less reliable internet connections typical to emerging markets create problems in two ways: lower bandwidth and higher packet loss. These conditions make it difficult – and on occasion impossible – to download content, access a website, or conduct a transaction online.
Content Delivery Networks can improve this situation in a number of ways. Firstly, CDNs move the content closer to the end-user, enabling faster, potentially more reliable connections over shorter distances. Secondly, they can also choose alternate routes to the end-user that provide a better connection through smart routing. In addition, CDNs can accelerate traffic between the end-user and the origin - even if the content is not stored locally - thus mitigating connection issues on either end.
Typically, firms with a global end user base – as well as those with end users in challenging regions - benefit the most from optimisation. One such firm is the content delivery specialist CDNetworks, a US firm set up in 2000 and active globally.
Jeff Kim, the firm’s COO, notes: “Russia is one of the most challenging Internet markets due to bandwidth limitations, network and peering issues, its vast geography, and governmental and cultural challenges. We’re working both with customers who are trying to deliver in as well as out of Russia. The same is true for China. There is as much demand for western companies delivering into these emerging markets as for businesses in those countries to tap into the more established developed markets.”
The past few years have seen a dramatic increase in the demand for data in China, with eCommerce now a burgeoning industry. Companies that have established manufacturing, sales, marketing, and R&D facilities in China rely on a number of web-based applications to run their businesses; examples include product traceability, collaboration portals, learning management systems, and supplier portals. These applications are typically centrally located at a business’s US or European headquarters, and are critical to the success of the organisation. However, due to the inherent latency of the Internet, combined with the unique network environment in China, these applications become virtually unusable as they reach response times as long as 30 seconds – CDN services provide a means of addressing these issues.
Interconnections and peering are more problematic in emerging markets, and cause substantial underperformance for end users relative to developed countries. These areas are also considerably more expensive and difficult to navigate, making it difficult for many companies to establish a useful presence. Content providers have previously resigned themselves to poor performance in these areas and/or high cost for marginal performance, making them less able to focus on these markets. However, these difficulties can be addressed with cloud-based delivery of CDN services.
Placing content ‘in the cloud’ abstracts it away from the content provider and places it with an intermediary – the CDN – who then delivers it to end users in the most expeditious way available. It is essentially of no consequence to the content provider what the CDN does or where it is located, as long as the content gets to its destination as quickly as possible. It is therefore important for CDNs to meet this expectation, which requires monitoring, trained staff, adequate infrastructure, disaster plans, etc. In addition, partnerships with reliable service providers can extend the network’s reach into underserved, remote regions – allowing content to be delivered to the maximum number of end users regardless of where they are located.
By integrating services into cloud-based load-balancing, CDN providers can reduce the number of DNS lookups required when the services are used, providing performance and reliability benefits and resulting in faster content download times. Tight integration also allows CDNs to take many more factors into account to reflect true load of the systems regardless of how much other activity is going on in the area or what other troubles may be impacting the region.
This versatility underlines the potential that content delivery networks have in emerging markets, where demand for data is rapidly increasing. Many CDN firms are establishing themselves in these areas by offering free and paid services, such as US-based CloudFlare, which also provides services to the Turkish government. Some – such as ChinaCache – are addressing the requirements of one market, while others – such as Highwinds Network Group – have expanded across several continents, but no matter the focus, the value of increasing bandwidth and reducing latency is rapidly becoming apparent in all markets.