If you visited a business that shut down during operating hours, had long wait times, and constantly advertised irrelevant services, would you return? Probably not--so why risk the same user experience for your customers? The more time users spend online, the more important it is to ensure your digital business is as personalized and performant as possible, requiring powerful computing capabilities located as close as possible to end users. That’s why today’s biggest companies are replacing their CDNs with edge computing: a new type of distributed infrastructure designed for the modern Internet.
Azion’s Edge Platform not only replaces legacy CDN services, but brings programmability to the edge of the network for a better user experience with less operational costs. This article will explain how CDNs compare to edge computing, outline the characteristics of an edge network, and provide an introduction to the benefits and use cases of Edge Application.
CDNs vs Edge Computing
The Problem with Traditional CDNs
Chances are, any website today that looks and performs the way sites did in the 1990s will have some very disappointed users. Both web design and user expectations have changed a lot since then, outgrowing the capabilities of legacy CDNs, or content delivery networks, which emerged in the 1990s to solve the problems of web 1.0. In a previous article, we explained how CDNs store copies of--or cache--previously accessed content in geographically distributed locations called points of presence, or PoPs. This speeds up delivery, reduces bandwidth, and reduces the load on origin servers--assuming, of course, that content can be cached.
But this model isn’t suited for today’s complex sites and customized delivery needs. With APIs, dynamic content, and images that must be perfectly sized, formatted, and rendered to display in a variety of devices and browsers, treating content delivery like a one-size-fits-all affair is simply not an option. As a result, much of the content found on today’s sites can’t be cached, requiring many requests to be forwarded to origin servers.
How Edge Computing Improves Content Delivery
Edge computing solves this problem by moving computing power to the edge of the network, enabling more customizable delivery and a wider range of services than simply caching and forwarding static content.
With CDNs you can…
- Cache copies of static content
- Serve cached content to nearby users
With Edge Computing you can…
- Run custom code at the edge of the network
- Cache static and dynamic content
- Customize delivery based on location, device, or other data
- Create and automate workflows for image processing and other tasks
- Scale automatically without managing infrastructure
- Run analytics or view performance metrics in real time
As websites and applications become increasingly complex, and as more devices come online, the need for the edge is only expected to grow, with IDC predicting that 70% of companies will be carrying out some level of data processing at the edge of the network by 2023. For more information on how edge computing is disrupting the market, check out this article on the Main Trends for Edge Computing.
What is an Edge Network?
CDNs provide digital businesses with more coverage, via PoPs that are geographically distributed close to end users. However, a “PoP”, as defined by LF Edge’s Open Glossary of Edge Computing, is any “point in their network infrastructure where a service provider allows connectivity to their network by users or partners.” In other words, any network access point can be a PoP, even a single server.
Edge networks are more complex; they consist of edge locations that not only store data, but perform computing tasks close to end users. Similar to cloud computing, edge networks are software-defined, enabling customers to “lease” virtualized compute and storage on an on-demand basis, using hardware managed by the provider. Unlike cloud data centers, however, edge locations are decentralized and geographically distributed, reducing the distance that data has to travel--and as a result, reducing latency and bandwidth usage.
- CDN PoPs: distributed network access points that cache content close to end users
- Cloud data centers: centralized, hyperscale facilities located far from end users that provide on-demand virtualized resources for compute and storage
- Edge locations: decentralized and geographically distributed facilities that perform caching and computing services close to end users
Combining the performance benefits of a distributed network with the virtualized and flexible resources of cloud data centers, edge networks provide a range of benefits, such as:
- Low latency
- Near zero-touch maintenance
- Pay-as-you-go billing
With over 40 edge locations worldwide, Azion’s Edge Network enables sites hosted on our platform to reach 90% of users in the Americas with 30ms latency, 13x spare capacity, and a 100% uptime SLA.
What Is Edge Application?
Azion Edge Application lets you build web applications to run on Azion’s Edge Platform, enabling better performance and scalability with less infrastructure to manage. With it, you can not only cache content, but create intelligent rules to customize content delivery through four modules:
- Edge Caching: configure different cache settings to speed up delivery of static and dynamic content.
- Application Acceleration: speed up web applications and APIs by optimizing API protocols and managing dynamic content delivery.
- Image Processor: reduce costs and improve performance by optimizing image delivery for various devices, browsers, and screen resolutions.
- Load Balancer: improve fault tolerance and avoid network congestion by balancing traffic between your origin servers and cloud providers.
How Does Edge Application Work?
Edge Application uses a reverse proxy architecture, with distributed edge locations that sit in front of your origin servers and act on their behalf, providing security, flexibility, and scalability without altering the site’s address. For each edge application you create, Azion is responsible for delivering the content and processing the business rules. When a user requests content from your edge application, their browser translates the requested domain through DNS resolution to a pre-configured IP address and directs it to our SDN router, which selects the nearest, healthiest Edge Node to handle the request and deliver content to the user based on the rules you’ve configured.
This enables secure, high-performing applications that scale automatically, significantly reducing operational tasks and enabling a variety of use cases such as:
- Localization and dynamic caching: create request-and-response rules to cache content based on geolocation, user preferences, or shopping history.
- Multi-cloud load balancing: eliminate vendor lock-in by balancing traffic between multiple cloud providers.
- Accelerate APIs: extend Edge Application functionalities with support for PUT/POST and other HTTP methods.
- Automate workflows: creates rules to automatically crop, resize, reformat, and filter images as needed without uploading or managing multiple image versions.
- Video acceleration: efficiently deliver large files by splitting them into small pieces that are gradually delivered to the user according to data consumption.
- Extend with Edge Functions: enhance the capabilities of your edge application with preset functions like A/B tests or your own custom code with our serverless computing product, Edge Functions.
Benefits of Edge Application
Edge Application has helped companies like NZN, Omelete, and Lojas Renner improve the user experience and streamline operations. To learn more about the benefits of Edge Application, check out our Success Cases to see how Azion has helped companies:
- reduce content loading time;
- speed up mobile delivery;
- scale to meet usage spikes;
- reduce cloud and infrastructure costs;
- improve SEO and reduce advertising costs;
- increase revenue and conversions; and
- simplify operations.
Edge Application updates and improves upon legacy CDN models by bringing computing to the edge of the network, enabling customized content delivery for today’s complex sites and applications. To see what Azion can do for your company, check out our First Steps and learn how to create an application or create a free account and start building your edge application today.