As is no surprise, the world’s media businesses are delivering more digital content, in more unique ways than ever before. And now more than ever, businesses are looking for ways to deliver that content quickly, reliably and at scale; but crucially at a cost that is manageable.
Previously, it’s cost a few quid to tick all of those boxes: speed, reliability, scale. But recently, at IBC and increasingly in customer conversations, I am seeing that in order to gain control of their performance, costs and contingency, businesses of all sizes are turning away from established CDN providers and looking towards bringing new technologies in house, becoming more hands-on.
Now of course, outsourcing a CDN has clear and recognized benefits: access to pooled resources; access to niche talent; access to new technologies; someone to blame if things go wrong, etc. It does, however, also bring some clear disadvantages, including: lack of control over future planning; a less tailored, more one-size-fits-all solution; time delays in making (regularly time sensitive) changes and all at what is often a premium price point.
But while that premium price point for managed CDNs has become more and more premium, the quality of readily accessible technology and skills (previously reserved for the likes of YouTube and Netflix) is improving exponentially. This is shifting a balance. Essentially, businesses are finding themselves in a position where they are paying a large amount of money for a content delivery solution that they could manage more easily and tailor more closely to their needs themselves, internally, at a fraction of the cost.
For me, there are three main considerations in this decision: maintaining (or even improving) performance, taking control and reducing costs.
Maintaining (or improving) performance
Firstly, when building a CDN, engineers are able to set up POPs precisely where it makes sense for them to be. In the cloud in particular, this can be achieved while still benefiting from global routing and elastic clusters. Additionally though, when building a bespoke solution, engineers are in control of the tools that they are using from start to finish. This means that the business can trim the service, only investing in exactly what is required for their specific use case. In a live video streaming scenario for example, this means that the operator has a complete understanding of exactly where any latency is being injected and what can be done to reduce it.
In the short term, if you are managing something directly, you are able to make the changes you need more quickly and easily. You are also in total control of the configuration of your platform (including any secret sauce) and don't need to share a service with other users that could impact cache efficiencies. But additionally, in the long term, as the ability to deliver digital content becomes more and more crucial to global business models, it becomes increasingly important to become less reliant on external parties and build contingency into a business’s technical roadmap.
Firstly, the biggest cost reduction can be brought about by simply not paying a premium for someone else to manage a platform on your behalf. Not only this, but a private CDN can reduce costs thanks to a smaller footprint brought about in conjunction with improved performance. Additionally though, when delivering content independent to managed CDNs, businesses are able to take advantage of preferred delivery routes from the ISPs themselves, taking advantage of lower bandwidth costs.
An eye on the future
Well quickly an eye on the not so-distant past… And the food wasn’t great, but I was very encouraged by IBC in September. Not least because it was Varnish’s first time exhibiting, but also because I was able to see that businesses around the world are asking the same questions about how they are going to deliver their content most effectively. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people were very interested to hear that Varnish is already providing the tools for some of biggest media businesses in the world to take back control of their content delivery.
And now with an eye on the future… Of course, building a CDN is not suitable for every business case - but I anticipate that as more businesses realize what is possible in this space and realize what they too can be doing to improve their delivery performance, their management and future-proofing of their platforms, all at a reduced cost, there will be some changes in the way that people are delivering content in 2019.
Please, let me know your thoughts.