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The death of the CDN

Posted by on November 11th, 2015

In the early days of internet, backbones where congested and users accessed over slow speed analogue lines.  Delivering your content to end users was a nightmare.  This gave rise to Content Distribution Networks CDN’s.  For a fee these companies would rent you a portion of their private network to by-pass congestion points on the internet.  These companies grew and with time their bulk purchasing made them effective resellers of internet capacity.  They became the internet Service Providers they sought to fix.

Fast forward to the modern day.  The backbone capacity of the internet today is enormous.  Most users access the internet through broadband connections with providers who are financially motivated and ranked on their delivery speed.  You can provide a global website for reasonable money from any number of low cost providers.  So why do the CDN’s still exist?

To understand this you need to see that most web application where built to be run from a single location, with all the traffic regardless of origin being back hauled to the server farm.  This has more to do with historical development than any practical need.

Today we have cloud providers who have distributed capacity around the globe.  You can write a modern application to spin up resources geographically local to your customers. Smart modern apps are able to use the cloud to spin up additional capacity in the region they are being utilized to meet demand and  back down to manage cost.

Since you can do this at very economical rates and provide superior performance, why would anyone choose to back haul all their traffic to a single location?

If you look at large modern application architectures like Google, Facebook and Netflix you will see a distributed global environment, not only is faster and cheaper, its more reliable.

While it took these first companies time to learn how to manage these application they have gracefully provided these tools into the public domain.  Now with a little help and guidance other companies can leverage the superior architecture of Cloud based, distributed applications that spawn and operate where the customers are, grow and shrink to meet demand and adapt to conditions, allowing non-stop fast service regardless of demand or geography.

The simple fact is that CDN’s today are just large resellers of capacity struggling under the weight of their own infrastructure costs; increasingly forced to specialize in niche services.

At aiScaler we spend our time developing tools to allow organizations to develop smarter applications that leverage the power of the global clouds and eliminate the dependance on antiquated solutions like CDN’s.  Once developers see the speed at which applications can be built when you no longer have to worry about micro-caching and single location inflexible architecture the move is obvious.

While we appreciate the interim steps provided by the CDN and acknowledge their Niche role in the growing video market.  We will not fee bad seeing them go the way of 2400 baud Modems.

The internet is a harsh mistress and even litigation can’t keep you alive forever.

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