A Content Delivery Network or Content Distribution Network (CDN) is a system of servers containing copies of data, placed at various points in a network so as to maximize bandwidth for access to data from clients throughout the network. A client accesses a copy of the data from a location geographically nearest to the point of request as opposed to all clients accessing the same central server which helps avoid bottlenecks.
Content types include web objects, downloadable objects (media files, software, and documents), applications, real time media streams, and other components of internet delivery (DNS, routes, and database queries).
The capacity sum of strategically placed CDN edge servers can be higher than the network backbone capacity. This results in an impressive increase in the number of concurrent users. For instance, when there is a 10 Gbit/s network backbone and 100 Gbit/s central server capacity, only 10 Gbit/s can be delivered. But when 10 servers are moved to 10 CDN edge locations, total capacity can be 10×10 Gbit/s.
Strategically placed CDN edge servers decrease the load on interconnects, public peers, private peers and backbones, freeing up capacity and lowering delivery costs. Instead of loading all traffic on a backbone or peer link, a CDN can offload these by redirecting traffic to edge servers.
CDNs generally deliver content over TCP and UDP connections. TCP throughput over a network is impacted by both latency and packet loss. In order to reduce both of these parameters, CDNs traditionally place servers as close to the edge networks that users are on as possible. Theoretically the closer the content the faster the delivery, although network distance may not be the factor that leads to best performance. End users will likely experience less jitter, fewer network peaks and surges, and improved stream quality – especially in remote areas. The increased reliability allows a CDN operator to deliver HD quality content with high Quality of Service, low costs and low network load.
CDNs can dynamically distribute assets to strategically placed redundant core, fallback and edge servers. CDNs can have automatic server availability sensing with instant user redirection. A CDN can offer 100% availability, even with large power, network or hardware outages.
CDN technologies give more control of asset delivery and network load. They can optimize capacity per customer, provide views of real-time load and statistics, reveal which assets are popular, and show active regions and report exact viewing details to the customers. These usage details are an important feature that a CDN provider must provide, since the usage logs are no longer available at the content source server after it has been plugged into the CDN, because the connections of end-users are now served by the CDN edges instead of the content source.
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