What CDNs Are and How They Work
A CDN, or content delivery network, is nothing more than a geographically distributed server network that helps deliver content to end users with reduced latency.
Content is delivered to geographic locations closer to users through points of presence (PoPs). In addition, CDNs speed up content delivery by caching and delivering data closer to users, which reduces latency, speeds up loading, reduces bandwidth consumption and resource usage, and increases availability.
In a nutshell, users receive the same content in a faster, more satisfying, and more secure way. In other words, a CDN is the middle of the road between the origin and the end user, as the content is delivered through globally distributed PoPs.
A CDN keeps copies of its users’ content in many different locations around the globe at once. In doing so, CDNs improve bandwidth consumption, increase scalability and decrease latency. This requires a robust architecture that can support a large amount of traffic without compromising the user experience.
Just like any technology, CDNs have had to evolve to keep up with heavier Internet traffic, a wider variety of content—streaming video and gaming, for example—demand for ultra-low latency, different types of connected devices, and increased quality of experience for ever more demanding users.
All these demands require a strategic differentiator, and this is achieved by adding the benefits of edge computing to CDNs. The main difference is that a legacy CDN focuses more on data delivery, while edge computing platforms can offer a range of additional services directly at the edge.
Advantages of Using a CDN
The advantages of using a CDN can vary according to your needs; however, there are some key benefits that most users find crucial:
- Reduced latency and loading time: With content closer to the end users, there is a considerable reduction in latency and, consequently, a great improvement in the user experience.
- Bandwidth savings: CDNs reduce costs due to less traffic to origin servers. Hosting costs can be adjusted according to demand, which is cost-effective.
- High content availability: Distributed networks are capable of handling more intense traffic and providing more fault tolerance by making content available at different points.
- More effective security: Since the CDN manages all your content traffic, it is able to identify attacks before they reach the origin, enabling DDoS attack mitigation and security certificate enhancement, among other advantages.
It can be said that CDNs’ main goal is to improve performance and latency for users in different locations. By shortening the distance between users and the content they are trying to access, CDNs reduce the wait time for today’s impatient users. So far so good. However, what is modern today may be considered outdated tomorrow. Just like everything else, CDNs need to evolve.
And how does this evolution play out? CDNs have been through a few generations, including static CDNs, dynamic CDNs, and multipurpose CDNs. The first generation was aimed at improving performance; the second added availability, and the third, security. But can these three benefits alone meet the demands of today’s ultrafast modern applications and increasingly demanding users?
An edge platform aggregates the three characteristics mentioned above into a single infrastructure. In addition, the continuous process of CDN evolution has introduced edge computing to bring computing power closer to users, enabling more use cases and new solutions for the constantly evolving and changing economy.
This innovation is the crucial difference between a legacy CDN and an edge platforms. An edge platforms needs to be able to meet the demands of the hyperconnected world, enable the use of state-of-the-art technologies, meet the expectations of demanding users, and offer services that add even more value to its customers. To accomplish this, edge platforms have:
- functions able to improve caching and security rules;
- observability tools that study data and user behavior accurately and consistently;
- decision-making power directly at the edge; and
- computational and processing resource use at the edge, improving application and content delivery.
An edge platform goes far beyond content distribution, because today’s content-heavy applications require advanced capabilities that are in line with the speed, resilience, demand, and connectivity of modern times. And these days, edge computing goes hand in hand with the latest technologies, such as 5G, AR/VR, and IoT.
Benefits of an Edge Platform
An edge platform can bring scalability, observability, and greater security to your business as logic can be programmed and executed directly at the edge and in real time. By adding edge computing to CDN nodes, applications can run at their highest level of performance with global coverage. Similar to traditional CDNs, an edge platform stores content closer to end users to reduce bandwidth and optimize delivery speed, but its added computing power enables more control and new use cases.
Azion’s Edge Platform provides sophisticated computing capabilities at the edge of the network, such as a powerful security layer, serverless application creation, multi-layer caching, and load balancing. In addition, Azion’s platform lets you easily integrate with our partners for additional service layers.
Azion’s Edge Platform lets you choose from powerful edge computing products and modules, such as:
- Edge Application: Build serverless applications to optimize your platform and run functions at the edge without worrying about compute resources. Deliver highly reliable content with 100% guaranteed network uptime, greatly improving your users’ experience.
- Edge Caching: Software-defined networking monitors and processes requests in real-time and is designed to leverage edge applications, ensuring that your platform can support high volumes of requests per second, with no performance impact and minimal latency. This is a standard module for all your edge applications.
- L2 Caching: This additional cache layer between Azion’s edge and your origin helps to further reduce the load on your infrastructure. It is a second cache layer responsible for powering the edge. Designed for long-lived content, L2 Caching is responsible for powering the edge, keeping your content stored for as long as you specify.
- Load Balancer: With Azion Load Balancer, you can add multiple sources to your content, select the load balancing method that best suits your requirements, and customize timeouts and error handling. This distribution guarantees the delivery of your content if any of your origin servers go down.
- Edge Firewall: Extend your security perimeter to the edge of the network, with access control rules that are processed directly in the Azion Edge Network, closer to your users, to prevent malicious requests from reaching your origin or accessing your applications. This multi-layer security perimeter includes Web Application Firewall, Network Layer Protection and DDoS Protection modules.
In addition, customers can gain all the power of observability by integrating with Azion’s Edge Analytics, our complete observability suite, consisting of the powerful Data Streaming, Edge Pulse, Real-Time Events, and Real-Time Metrics tools.
On top of all this, Azion’s platform provides ultra-low latency; globally distributed edge locations, a big reduction in infrastructure and connectivity costs; and increased network capacity, which avoids bottlenecks and allows greater scalability for delivering content globally, even during peak usage periods.
You can also add the full potential of creating custom rules for both Edge Application and Edge Firewall through the Rules Engine that is designed to allow you to code conditional execution logic, meaning you can create behaviors based on conditions that best serve your business strategy.
A modern application requires modern content delivery. Without global scalability, distributed security, high resiliency, and minimal latency, your business may be doomed to fall behind. But with an edge platform like Azion’s that combines the benefits of CDN with edge computing, your business can achieve excellence.
Azion simplifies how enterprises create, secure, deliver and observe their applications by offering zero-touch provisioning through an API-based managed platform that reduces operational tasks like provisioning through state-of-the-art technology.
Furthermore, you can rely on edge locations with global coverage, 24/7 support, and APIs that simplify integration between systems and configurations and brings benefits closer to your users with leading edge computing technology.
Learn how Azion can help you respond to the demands of the hyperconnected economy anywhere in the world and enrich your users’ experience securely and efficiently. Create your free account today and explore the benefits of Azion’s Edge Platform: open, programmable and extensible. Create, secure, deliver and observe your applications with Azion by contacting one of our experts here.