CDNs: Ever-Changing and Ever-More Important

Carl Weinschenk
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Content delivery networks (CDNs) can best be described as the shadow networks that provide enterprises and carriers with the bandwidth and flexibility, through savvy remote storage of content, to keep up with the growth in demand.

Dan Rayburn, the executive vice president of Streaming Media, offers a comprehensive set of lists that highlight the players in the sector, deployments and deals. It is the sort of list that could be created only by somebody who has followed the category closely for a long time. It is well worth a look for anybody interested in CDNs.

Rayburn points out that the category is complicated:

The term ‘CDN’ is very generic these days and there are vendors that focus on specific types of content delivery like video streaming or application acceleration and some that focus on a specific vertical like gaming. You also have vendors that don’t fall under the traditional CDN term, for services like Web optimization, licensed/managed CDN or services to measure CDN performance, shape traffic amongst multiple CDNs and offer analytics and cloud intelligence.

It is human nature to circle back and check on the progress of a category when it makes big news. In this case, the headline is that Verizon is acquiring Edgecast, a high-profile CDN firm. At Venture Beat, Devindra Hardawar writes that the acquisition will buttress Verizon’s Digital Media Services offering, but it appears that the company is focusing on advanced delivery options.

Rayburn told IT Business Edge that it is a big deal:

This is important because Verizon is buying Edgecast for more than just bit delivery. The CDN is a piece of a larger ecosystem. Verizon is not just saying ‘We are buying Edgecast to get bits from point A to point B,’ they are saying ‘We want to get into the CDN business and Edgecast fills a void we had in the larger video platform.’

Though that is the highest-profile item, it isn’t the only news in the CDN sector. A second acquisition also focused on video. On Monday, Skytide was acquired by Citrix. Christopher Koopmans, Citrix’s vice president and general manager of Service Provider Platforms, blogged that the addition will enable the company to more effectively measure and monitor the streaming element of its overall video delivery infrastructure.

Finally, Data Center Knowledge reported last week that Akamai – a leading CDN provider – is acquiring Prolexic, a provider of Web optimization and security services. The deal may point the way forward for Akamai, according to writer Jason Verge:

Companies like CloudFlare that provide a hybrid of CDN and security services have captured a lot of the consumer market, and  stand as a possible future threat to Akamai’s business. Akamai needs to evolve, and it is doing so here. Akamai is firmly rooted in the higher end of the market and will maintain its position by expanding its portfolio of security solutions, in addition to content delivery services. The acquisition means businesses can acquire performance and DDoS mitigation from a single vendor.

CDNs will become an increasingly important and segmented element of the network infrastructure ecosystem as the number of users and bandwidth-intensive video applications grows.

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