Next-generation CDNs: extending customer applications to the edge

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Limitations of traditional CDNs
  3. What is a next-gen CDN?
  4. Dynamic, mobile-aware, interactive web applications
  5. Key takeaways
  6. About Ernie Regalado


Today’s web and mobile applications are wreaking havoc on traditional content delivery network (CDN) infrastructure. Traditional CDNs are unable to cope with the demands of real-time services, as their infrastructures have been built to cache and deliver static content only. Web applications are now dynamic and interactive – and every consumer expects them to function immediately. The traditional CDN, in an effort to overcome its limitations in delivering modern day content, has created new services on top of its legacy software that accelerate content over the middle mile. But building new software on top of old is never ideal.

The next-generation CDN has solved the problem of delivering dynamic content – such as HTML, API, Ajax calls, or anything else that requires application logic – that is generally considered to be uncacheable. By building a modern CDN infrastructure from the ground up, next-gen CDNs can cache rapidly changing content, largely due to features such as instant purging, which removes and replaces stale content in real-time.

Other features that next-gen CDNs offer increase the flexibility and transparency of content delivery and monitoring. These features include instant configuration changes, real-time reporting tools, and real-time logging. Instant configuration changes enable developers to update applications in the cloud while they are running, thus eliminating the need for maintenance downtime. Real-time reporting and logging make it possible to predict traffic spikes and provide visibility on potential bottlenecks that could impact the CDN. Extended flexibility gives CDN customers complete control over their web application, from development stages through running in production in the cloud. Thus, businesses are no longer constrained to the traditional CDN “black box,” where visibility, functionality, and choices are limited in application and content delivery.

Traditional CDNs are incapable of handling the heavy workloads and demands of modern consumer applications because their architectures are outdated and their software-caching platforms are bloated and unable to keep up with real-time services. Many of these traditional CDNs have failed to re-invent themselves, choosing instead to operate within their comfort zones.

This report examines how strategies for next-gen CDNs will enable online businesses to be more successful by improving web traffic metrics such as conversions, click-through rates, engagement, and retention, while enhancing end-user experience.

Key takeaways include:

  • Today’s web applications are complex and resource intensive, and the plethora of content types are severely taxing current traditional CDN infrastructure.
  • Traditional CDNs are ill-equipped to deal with the requirements of dynamic content delivery, and don’t offer advanced functionality such as instant purging, real-time reporting, real-time logging, and application control at the edge.
  • Next-gen CDNs are well-positioned to deliver rapidly changing content, interactive web applications, mobile applications, and APIs.
  • Next-gen CDNs have stepped up their efforts and built platforms that offer customers control over their web applications, giving them the flexibility and visibility they require, matching the features and functionality of leading cloud compute platforms.
  • By partnering with the right CDN, a company can enjoy high-performance application and content delivery, advanced reporting and analytics for decision-making, and improved metrics such as conversion rates, retention, click-through, end-user interactions, and optimized page load times.


Thumbnail image courtesy: iStock/Thinkstock

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