Content Delivery Networks represent another way to the edge

IBM data centre © Flickr/cc-licence/Bob Mical

IBM data centre © Flickr/cc-licence/Bob Mical

  • G-Core Labs has launched a new European hosting PoP in London
  • It will serve streaming demand in the UK which enjoys internet penetration of nearly 95% 
  • It augments the 60 PoPs, 5000 peering partners and 300+ cache servers G-Core Labs already has on five continents

There can be many definitions or classes of ‘edge’ if you define their key edge characteristic as being an ability to get content or compute workloads closer to the end user to speed up online response times. 

Under that definition the Content Delivery Network (CDN) might be thought of as the original edge play. It’s been around for a couple of decades now and is still going strong, especially where it acts as the final staging post for online video.

What a CDN does (and can be evolved to do) is essentially what the industry is hoping the emerging telco edge can do better: amongst other good things it can improve application performance, help banish network congestion problems (through using the CDN edge to cache content) and thereby improve hosted application performance. 

As we know, the telco edge is being promoted as the ultimate way to finesse all this and more and in most stories, it adds in IoT and industrial control applications. 

At this stage of the game the big difference between the two is that the telco edge story is about  ultra-low latencies and, ultimately, a higher degree of standardisation and coordination between telcos to drive scale and make its edge the dominant enabler for high performance applications, especially over 5G for its own edge applications and those of OTT partners. On the all-important latency aspect, ultimately the telco edge would like to get close to two or three milliseconds which it believes puts transformative applications for both home and business within its grasp, various flavours of augmented and mixed reality are usually name-checked. 

CDNs will likely evolve towards these capabilities from below, as it were. They may even eventually become hosted entities within the telco edge where this makes commercial and technical sense. 

They are customer focused so will build on what they have already achieved and what their customers demand.  They could aim to deliver latencies well below 100 milliseconds, ideally down to the 10 to 20 millisecond range. This is not as low as the numbers being quoted for the telco edge, but then it’s uncertain just how transformative ultra-low latencies will be and what premium providers will be prepared to pay to take advantage of them, leaving plenty of theoretical room for CDNs to evolve their technology and business models while driving down latency. 

One such player is International provider of ‘Cloud and Edge Solutions’ G-Core Labs, which has announced that it’s expanding its presence in Europe by opening its 24th hosting point in London. It says the new PoP expands the choice for companies and teams who want to have their own dedicated server in Western Europe and guarantees a server access speed of 200 Mbit/s, has no traffic restrictions and is located in a certified Tier III data center.

G-Core has also located its CDN servers in London where it shares the same infrastructure as its PoP servers. It claims the CDN is able to provide almost instant delivery of the heaviest content to the local audience and customers, including video broadcasts, premium games or demo videos of online stores. Its servers have a claimed average response time of 19 milliseconds.

G-Core points out that video streaming across the Internet is already a huge workload given internet penetration of nearly 95% in the UK, a third of whom use streaming as the main way to view video content. They are also increasingly using streaming to experience next generation gaming which tips over into virtual and augmented reality. That gaming niche is, of course, one of the first ones that the telco edge players want to service (see - MobiledgeX surfaces mobile networks to public clouds and app developers).

So despite all the confident technology talk around 5G and edge, telcos clearly won’t have the field to themselves and they’ll be facing seasoned competitors from the CDN world, including G-Core. 

G-Core, for instance, is no shoe-string outfit. It claims a global architecture encompassing G-Core Labs’ content delivery network, located on five  continents which today includes more than 60 points of presence, over 5000 peering partners and more than 300 cache servers. The total network capacity is over 10Tbit/s and the company says it’s ready for any peak traffic. 

And it has some boasts, courtesy of which measures CDN performance. G-Core claims it has the best performance in Europe, Russia and the CIS on throughput (the amount of data that a site transmits in fixed time); the best response time (actual request processing time, plus the delay in transmitting information over the network and messages delay in the queue); and the best time for file downloading.

As always telcos will face strident competition at the edge from the likes of cable and fibre operators (who also want to work some edge capabilities into their offerings), other 5G network operators and the CDN players. There’s all to play for.

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