Traditionally the CDN (Content Delivery Network) market has been dominated by a few key players, such as Akamai, Limelight, Level 3, EdgeCast and Highwinds, and likewise the number of companies using CDN’s has been pretty limited as well. The reason for this is that the barriers of entry have been very high, as providers wanting to get their share of the $2.6 billion CDN market would have to establish many pops worldwide as well as develop their own software to support the CDN.
However in recent years the adoption of CDN has gone up, due to cost going down and more and more companies reselling services from the large CDN networks. This has led to a lot of growth in the CDN market, which has spawned some very interesting startups that are trying to evolve and commodify the CDN industry. By removing the large barriers of entry that have traditionally been in this part of our industry, they are opening up the game to even small providers. In this post, I will be looking at some of these and the options available for providers to get involved and get their share of the CDN market:
- OnApp CDN
OnApp is traditionally known for its cloud platform, but in 2011 they acquired the CDN startup Aflexi. They have since used Aflexis platform as a base for creating the OnApp CDN Federation, which combined with OnApp CDN Stack and OnApp CDNaaS makes up their CDN solution for hosting providers.
The CDN Federation is basically a marketplace, where providers can sell excess capacity at whatever GB price they wish to charge, and likewise they can buy capacity from other providers without any commitment – and thereby build up a CDN with a large amount of pops, without having to invest in infrastructure or expensive software. The CDN Stack is the edge server software, that needs to be set up on the locations you would like to establish your own pop, and the CDNaaS (CDN as a Service) is an anycast dns service used to distribute the traffic between the pops.
- XDN, Xchange Delivery Network
XDN was originally known as 3Crowd, and is an offering based on their two components CrowdDirector and CrowdCache. CrowdDirector is XDN’s intelligent anycast DNS load balancing service that is used to distribute traffic among the edge nodes, which are running the CrowdCache software. CrowdDirector has some very advanced filtering capabilities, enabling you to set up advanced rule sets based on criteria such as IP, AS number, time of day, geographic location the request was from etc. to get the most optimal out of your pops.
Like OnApps CDN Federation, XDN is also based on the federation concept and thereby enable you to sell your excess capacity – either by gb accounting or 95-percentile mbps accounting.
- EdgeCast Licensed Carrier CDN
As one of the old and dominant CDN providers, EdgeCast started offering a licensed version of their CDN software some time ago. The licensed version is aimed at carriers and other telco providers with a large network presence, and hence is targeted at larger enterprises rather than small and medium sized hosting providers. The licensed version is offered both as a managed service and as a licensed version where the customer manages the software.
The introduction of the term “federation” has not gone by EdgeCast either, who recently announced that they have also established a federation where their carriers can buy and sell capacity from each other.
- Limelight Deploy
Limelight is another traditional CDN provider, that has realized the potential in supporting other providers who wish to enter the growing CDN market. Therefore they recently launched Limelight Deploy, a managed CDN solution. There is limited information available on Limelights website, but based on what I could find it seems like the solution can utilize the carriers own network as well as Limelights existing. Limelight have chosen not to go the federation way though, but apparently it is still possible for customers to exchange capacity if they wish to.
- Highwinds Licensed/Federated CDN
Much like for example EdgeCast, Highwinds are offering their software as a licensed CDN solution, complimented by the ability to exchange traffic with Highwinds own CDN network and other members of their federation. Likewise the software is also offered both as a managed and a licensed model.
There are of course other solutions out there, as well as the Do It Your Self approach with for example BIND DNS, GeoIP and Ngihnx, but the purpose of this post is just to give some insight to some of the most common options available. Which model is the right obviously depend on a number of factors, including what kind of content you are looking to deliver (http push/pull, video streaming etc.).
In addition to the CDN software solutions available, there is of course also the option to resell capacity from an existing CDN vendor without utilizing your own infrastructure. However, the federation approach that in addition to selling CDN, also gives you the option to monetize spare network capacity is really appealing.