Should You Be Concerned About Your CDN? Survey Says “Yes.”

Date Published: June 15, 2021

Last Updated: June 17, 2021

Digital Multimedia Content Delivery Online as Art

Content protection and data security are priorities for the streaming industry, but after a week in which the internet shut down, you can’t help but wonder about the fragility of the network itself.

The findings from the 2021 Content Delivery & Edge Compute Trends survey reveal how fragmented the CDN market still is and that performance was ranked the number one criteria for choosing a CDN provider. Performance here seemed to be measured in terms of the ability to serve high quality streaming video with security the third most popular deciding factor.

When it comes to security, the survey suggests that content protection is most valued, followed by application protection — whether that’s application shielding or component hardening — and then key sets of performance indicators, in a broader “data & analytics” category.

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“You’ve got to have application security and a resilient network to beat off DDOS attacks and bot attacks,” said Arash Marzban, SVP of product at survey sponsor Stackpath, a Texas-based edge computing platform provider.

“Security has got to be built into a platform and built into the CDN. It should coexist in the same location as the CDN to minimize adding latency.”

All sensible suggestions, yet neither the survey nor its expert commentators, addressed possible inadvertent denial of service as a result of an undetected software bug which was the root cause of the outage that took down sites including Amazon, The New York Times, Reddit and The Guardian earlier this week.

The culprit in this case, though it is not the first and won’t be the last, was cloud computing provider Fastly. Somewhat counter intuitively its stock price actually went up following the crash, either because of its ability to find, fix and reboot its customers sites within an hour or because investors woke up to the fact that there was such a critical piece of the world’s infrastructure as a CDN.

You can read more about the outage at Streaming Media: “Fastly Outage Exposes Fragility of the Internet.”

Coverage of the Fastly outage highlighted how much of the world’s internet relies on just a few CDN providers. Other well-known names include Akamai, Amazon Cloudfront, Cloudflare, Interxion, Azure, Limelight, Rackspace, Telstra, Luman (L3) and Alibaba.

“The number of responses to ‘no plans’ should remind us that current edge compute offerings may not effectively educate on the benefits of edge computing. But when someone’s at pilot or implementation stage their criteria in choosing a CDN shifts.”

— Tim Siglin, Help Me Stream Research Foundation

Yet there are 30-40 others not on this list, suggesting a highly fragmented CDN market.

“This doesn’t surprise us at all,” said Marzban. “At the high end of the market, the discussion is always around multiple CDNs. But delivery also means a lot of different things to different people, so there are a number of growing use cases for CDN deployment.”

The vast majority of survey respondents also used at least two CDNs, meaning that we’re now firmly in a multi-CDN world. This also means that real-time measurements become table stakes, at least when it comes to load balancing and CDN switching.

“CDNs are complicated solution involving the interoperability of networks and resilience of deployment and maintenance of security. All of these problems have to be answered.”

It’s about to get a whole lot more complicated as internet delivery moves to the edge. Adoption though is in its very early stages with a lot of education required to build out knowledge of what edge can do and how to implement it.

Over half of all respondents said they had no plans to implement edge compute while about one-quarter said they were in pilot projects or full integration.

“The number of responses to ‘no plans’ should remind us that current edge compute offerings may not effectively educate on the benefits of edge computing,” said Tim Siglin, Founding Director, Help Me Stream Research Foundation. “But when someone’s at pilot or implementation stage their criteria in choosing a CDN shifts.”

Siglin also noted that those respondents who have implemented edge computing are also more open to the idea of an Open CDN standards-based “build your own” approach. A lack of expertise, though, hinders implementation of both Open CDN delivery as well as several security features that respondents said they were interested in implementing.

The massive growth in streaming video over CDNs is huge. The industry had to think differently about how to solve problems to keep up with this demand.

Arash Marzban, Stackpath

Marzban said, “It’s early days in edge, but it is the critical concept for improving the experience for the end user and to services and content securely and efficiently. The massive growth in streaming video over CDNs is huge. The industry had to think differently about how to solve problems to keep up with this demand.”

The 2021 Content Delivery & Edge Compute Trends survey, conducted by Streaming Media, Unisphere Research and Help Me Stream Research Foundation, presented the findings of over 300 industry leaders in April 2021.

READ MORE: Multi-CDN is Firmly Established; Edge Compute Has Yet to Take Hold (Streaming Media)