MAD Perspectives Blog

 Content Delivery - The Original Cloud Service

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, June 05, 2013

With all the talk across the IT sector about cloud computing, one would think that this was the newest, biggest technological advancement since the Internet...or the TV. However, in my opinion, cloud computing is great marketing of an existing solution that evolved in the late 90s. That is Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) enabled by the Internet Data Center (IDC).  IDCs helped CDNs to provide intelligent routing and edge caching for content delivery. CDNs allowed corporations and media companies, be they publishers, broadcasters, advertisers or studios to position content in the network in such a way as to guarantee users quick access to that content. 

Rather than procure large volumes of servers, storage, routers, etc., CDNs like Akamai, Speedera (acquired by Akamai), Mirror Image and others created relationships with companies who paid monthly fees based on the volume of content delivered and, eventually, service level commitments. The CDN owned responsibility for the network and IT infrastructure needed to enable content delivery. Doesn't that sound like cloud computing? 

CDNs evolved from a focus on dynamic (e.g., audio, video) and static content (e.g., data, text, pictures) to peer-to-peer content sharing to being a critical element of any cloud service now available. They matured their capabilities to ensure, measure and quantify the effectiveness of the service. We've all benefited from CDNs as we prowled websites, procured products via e-commerce sties and enjoyed all forms of streaming media. As companies look to the cloud to create new revenue opportunities, expand distribution channels, improve infrastructure capacity or enhance internal collaboration, they will be assessing the content delivery elements of the cloud. In fact leading cloud providers, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, emphasize their content delivery expertise when promoting their cloud services. My media industry centric clients are seeking cloud solutions for  multi-channel content delivery, collaborative workflows, centralized storage or transcoding on-demand, with a demand that content will be where it needs to be, when users need it. 

CDN requirements continue to evolve thanks to increased interactivity, user-generated content, peer-to-peer sharing and social networking. With the volume of content literally exploding (see Cisco's just released Visual Network Index!), global network users will generate 3 trillion Internet video minutes/month; that is 6 million years of video per month or 1.2 million video minutes every second of more than two years worth of video every second), networks must manage the distribution of dynamic and static content to consumers and business users wherever they are. As a result, as cloud services increase so does the content delivery market with revenue expected to reach $1B by 2015.

Most technology oriented companies are pursuing Software-as-a-Service, Infrastrucure-as-a-Service or Platform-as-a-Service cloud offerings. They will need to fulfill user expectatios for presentation and availability of content as well as functionality and performance of the service. This increases datacenter demand, be it hosted in a public, private or hybrid cloud.  Cisco's Global Cloud Index indicates that in North America, cloud data center traffic will represent 65% of the total datacenter traffic by 2016 as compared to 40% in 2011. The cloud is here to stay although I anticipate it will be rebranded at some point in the future. It lowers the barrier to entry for new market players as they can replace potentially heavy capital infrastructure costs with operating costs that are more closely aligned to the growth of their business. And, with the cloud there will always be a requirement for content delivery.

What's your perspective?