The Evolution of CDN and Content Delivery

This article explains the evolution of Content Delivery Networks and Content Delivery.

As the world increases its reliance on internet connectivity the speed, efficiency and security of network infrastructures are at a premium. One reason why our data distribution has kept up with developing technologies is the existence of Content Delivery Networks (CDN), that provision websites with the tools they need to keep pace with the ever-growing demands of their visitors.

CDNs have been around for a while. In fact, some have been trafficking data for decades. Still, as with all technology, many of these traditional CDNs have an expiration date and it appears that their time has finally arrived.

This “Changing of the Guards” provides us with an opportunity to understand just how CDNs initially broke on to the scene and also to examine the new wave of advancements that are now ushering the old-school CDNs into retirement.

PoPs and Premiums

Traditional or Legacy CDNs are being phased out, but they once represented a leap in speed and reliability; that is, for those who could afford it. The former infrastructure provided basic load balancing and caching to go along with faster network communication. But the cost of bandwidth was much steeper back then and these services were just too expensive for up-and-coming internet firms.

Another point of inefficiency were the Points of Presence (POPs) themselves. To deliver data at a significantly faster rate, CDN providers had to create many global POPs to reduce the range to their users. Building so many servers did create better connectivity at the time, but it was inefficient and costly and the end-users were ultimately stuck with the bill.

As a result, even in their heyday, traditional CDNs were narrow in their scope of services to businesses and consumers. CDNs were strictly that; they deliverer content, not much more. A competitive business in this era also had to buy Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs), Firewalls and DDoS Protection, just to name a few.

The Next Wave

As already mentioned, bare bone CDNs could handle caching, but only for static websites. These CDNs were employed when websites did little more than present text. They could not anticipate the growth of dynamic languages like PHP, AJAX, or XML. These technologies added a deep layer of interaction to the user experience and only modern CDNs can manage them properly.

It is difficult to overestimate the number of technologies that can be facilitated by modern CDNs. These new systems can relay complicated SaaS and other cloud applications. They are optimized with the latest developments in RAM and SSDs. They can compress images and files, increasing download speeds by several magnitudes.

Although sometimes overlooked, the added security capabilities included in modern CDNs are by themselves enough to justify their implementation. Increased load balancing and network size from new CDNs can add 100s of Gbps of network brawn to an otherwise ordinary website, providing them with the extra “muscle” they need to defend against network DDoS attacks.

At the same time, CDN's proxy role also makes it ideal for all traffic filtering and re-routing. And so, by leveraging CDN's intermediate position, modern vendors turn these worldwide content delivery infrastructures into cloud based firewalls and load distribution platforms. These relay points inspect and filter the incoming traffic as it flows through them on its way to the origin server.

Today, many leading service providers in the cyber security industry understand the value of these hybrid CDN services. This is why many security companies are now building CDNs for their own customers, improving their security offerings while simultaneously giving their users a range of improved technologies and infinite scalability.

Evolution of CDN and Content Delivery

Modern security oriented CDN blocks one of the most complex DDoS attacks to-date (Source: Incapsula)

Taking Advantage

The next generation of CDN is equipped to optimize the traffic flow and to filter out malicious visitors; hackers, spammers and DDoS bots.

Moreover, these modern CDN can handle load balancing, dynamic caching and much more, at speeds that blow traditional CDNs out of the water.

With these solutions the interent is now getting a big upgrade; transparently moving on to a stronger, faster and much more efficient CDN infrastructure.