A content delivery network (CDN) is a connected group of servers that helps cache and deliver content to users nearby.
A CDN is an architecture of connected servers that deliver content quickly to users around the world. The infrastructure uses servers that are closest to users, so the response is fast and cost-effective, and latency is minimal. This allows for the quick transfer of assets needed for loading internet content, including HTML pages, and static and dynamic content. When the distance data must travel is reduced, users get enhanced performance.
A content delivery network (CDN), also known as a delivery networking or application delivery networking, is business-critical for organizations with geographically far-flung staffs or users or both. Every second (and fraction of a second) counts in delivering data when users demand it, and being able to rely on a server that is near a user helps ensure near-real-time data delivery.
CDNs act as a layer in the internet ecosystem. Content owners such as media companies, social platforms, and e-commerce sites pay CDN operators to cache and deliver their content to their end users. In turn, a CDN operator pays internet service providers (ISPs), carriers, and network operators for hosting its servers in their global data centers.
Traditional web hosting involves containing a website’s data on a single hardware server. While this type of hosting is reliable and secure, it typically is not used alone for internet traffic because of its limited range and functionality. While a CDN does not replace the need for an organization to have a strong, reliable web hosting solution, it complements hosting services by caching content at the network edge.
This caching causes important backup of data, as well as builds data banks around the world, so it can improve website performance and user accessibility to data, and reduce some of the pain points in traditional web hosting.
CDNs can be on-premises data centers or be cloud-based. If your website uses free or shared hosting, a CDN can help you use fewer resources, which are usually limited on such platforms. In case your site experiences traffic spikes, CDNs will also ensure that those surges don’t result in exceeding the resource limit. Here are important functions and terms to help you better understand and get the most out of CDNs.
Origin server: In a connected delivery network, an origin server is the server that stores the original copy of a resource that is being requested by a client. A distributed cloud private link can allow you to configure an origin server over a private link.
Caching: A content delivery network caches content (including images, videos, or webpages) in proxy servers that are located physically closer to end users than origin servers. (A proxy server receives requests from and passes them along to other servers.) Because the servers are closer to the user making the request, a CDN can deliver content more quickly. Caching involves those far-flung servers responding to queries and then storing, or “caching” the information for future use. Caching reduces latency. Cached content remains in the CDN cache as long as users continue to request it.
Edge computing: Edge servers (used with edge clients) are a type of edge device that provides an entry point into a network. CDNs focus on transmitting cached data, while edge computing also supports many other types of computing as well, like live streaming, gaming, and AI.
Points of Presence (PoPs): Points of Presence (PoPs) are interconnected using a multi-terabit, dedicated, and redundant private network for maximum performance. These PoPs are densely peered and connected with multiple Tier1 transit providers to deliver reliable high-quality internet access for applications and consumers.
Any organization that relies on web traffic uptime and availability can benefit from using a CDN. Not only do CDNs work with your primary network to distribute traffic loads, but they distribute it intentionally to the nearest physical point to where the user is located.
To configure a CDN, you will need your origin server as well as a distributed cloud services account with a reliable cloud computing organization. These are the high-level steps to follow to implement the configuration:
Step 1: Log into the console of your cloud services account and create a new CDN distribution.
Step 2: Configure CDN settings, including metadata, domains, and distribution type.
Step 3: Integrate the origin service by configuring the CDN origin pool.
Step 4: If desired, configure advanced options to control your content delivery operation.
Step 5: Complete creating the distribution.
Step 6: Verify the distribution status. It might take a few minutes for your CDN Distribution to be deployed and to be ready to cache and serve content at Regional Edges.
Step 7: Configure a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or a Transport Layer Security (TLS) to secure your network data.
Step 8: Monitor performance for your distributions and adjust as necessary.
If you have not implemented a CDN and are looking to do so, it’s important to work with a company that provides the bandwidth and support you need, every step of the way. There are several factors to consider to help you make an informed decision.
After you’ve done your due diligence, you’ll be able to select the CDN provider that best aligns with your requirements – and your budget.
Many of the benefits of CDNs discussed previously can also positively affect a website’s and web pages’ search results. It’s important to remember there are no guarantees for any type of effect on search engine result pages (SERP). But optimizing your web experiences in certain ways can potentially help boost your SEO.
To get the most out of your content delivery network, you need to monitor its operations against your most important KPIs. Then analyze performance and delivery, and lastly, continue to optimize for top performance.
While content delivery networks can help boost your organization’s digital breadth and reach, CDNs can also can present certain challenges. IT departments should be aware of these potential issues and prevent them, or periodically check operations to make updates and enhancements.
In recent years, new trends have emerged in helping ensure that CDNs can scale with organizations’ digital growth. Here are some that can help you future-proof your CDN deployment.
Edge computing and CDN integration: The integration of edge computing and CDNs allows organizations to leverage the benefits of both approaches. Edge computing moves actions as close as possible to the source, enabling real-time decision-making and reducing latency. CDNs complement that functionality by ensuring that content is delivered quickly and efficiently by serving it from servers closer to the user.
By combining edge computing and CDN integration, organizations can enhance the user experience, improve application performance, and optimize the delivery of data and content. This is particularly important in scenarios involving the Internet of Things (IoT), where real-time decision-making and low latency are critical.
CDN deployment with HTTP/3 and QUIC protocol: HTTP/3 is a newer internet protocol that is fast growing in popularity and usage. It uses QUIC, a multiplexed transport protocol that gives CDNS lower latency and faster load times. HTTP/3 lower latency and loads much more quickly in real-world use.
AI and machine learning in CDN: The growing availability and use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in technology overall presents great opportunities for those using content delivery networks. Here are four benefits we are seeing:
At F5, we have deep experience in implementing and protecting content delivery networks (CDNs). We understand that distributing your data, and making it accessible to anyone who needs it, wherever in the world they might live, is a key consideration for your organization. Describe how F5's products and solutions can help implement and protect CDNs.
What’s more, we offer industry-leading integrations of security features to help your organization get the most out of your network, reliably and optimally.