Gaps with CDNs, Examples of Failures
What is a CDN? And why it may not be the ultimate solution to delayed content delivery
Websites are accessed from various nooks and corners of the world. And that is why users that are located far away from a website’s server experience delayed content delivery. However, the same can’t be said for people located near the server as they have faster access to the content. Here, you can see that the location of servers can make user experience inconsistent. CDNs or Content Delivery Networks were created to solve this issue of delayed content access by users.
CDNs have the capacity to serve a website’s content to its geographically scattered users, without any inconsistency in service. Not just that, they can also ensure that the transmission of the information is speedy, secure and reliable. A CDN consists of multiple servers stationed at various strategic locations across the globe. It works by caching a website’s resources in its servers so that users in the closest proximity can access them without latency.
A CDN server that is stationed closest to a user is referred to as an edge server. When a user requests access to a website, they get connected to their closest edge server for the requested content so they receive the responses faster. This reduces bounce rates considerably. Websites can make themselves more efficient by keeping all their data relevant to a particular geographical location cached in the CDN server nearest to that location. This enables users to access the information most pertinent to them, without having to wait.
Because of all the amazing benefits CDNs can offer, websites’ dependence on them has increased dramatically over the years.Talking about the current scenario, a massive amount of web traffic is passing through the CDNs that we have today. And since CDNs help websites efficiently handle traffic spikes and keep themselves safeguarded from malicious attacks, almost every business now wants to use a CDN for its website.
Coming to users, they have become more demanding than ever. Conventional viewing has almost been replaced by Internet-based viewing. Users prefer videos over text or images, and live over recorded content. They also have shifted their interest from static to interactive viewing.
Now, all this has got significant implications for network providers.Network service providers have begun to feel more performance pressure than ever. All this has also made their network infrastructures less attractive from a business point of view.
So, it’s not at all difficult to infer why networks give in at times. However, when a CDN giant like Fastly goes out of order, a lot of important websites get affected. The recent Fastly outage was totally unforeseen and it suddenly made CDN hosted content of many major websites non serviceable.
However, Fastly’s was not the first network breakdown. In 2019, Cloudfare, another major CDN provider caused major websites like Discord and Shopify to go down. Let’s talk in detail about these instances separately here, so we understand why centralization of the Internet may not be regarded as a great development.
The infamous Fastly outage-
The CDN market is not really huge. Meaning, each provider is catering to the network needs of millions of businesses. Hence, any glitch in the network of one provider can have serious consequences for its millions of users. This points at an important fact—the small handful of service providers that dominate the network market has the greatest influence over information access.
On June 8, 2021, a large portion of the Internet was inaccessible for approximately an hour. This also included the websites of major news outlets like the New York Times, BBC, and Financial Times, and other platforms such as Shopify and Reddit.
According to Fastly, which is one of the major CDNs we have today, the outage was caused by a fault in its systems. A lot of businesses such as news services and e-commerce sites depend on Fastly to deliver content to their widely scattered users.
Fastly warned, there could be potential impact on the performance of websites because of the glitch. They also stated that they had successfully identified the problem and a solution was underway. The fix was soon applied and services resumed as Fastly’s network came back on track. They said it was a service configuration that caused disruptions to their global POPs which they were able to remove successfully.
Note that Fastly is a major CDN provider in the world, along with Cloudflare and Akamai. In response to the incident, a lot of people also pointed at the Internet’s growing over-dependence on networks like Fastly and Cloudflare. The outage impacted the company’s share prices negatively. And according to sources, it had lost about 5% before the problem was fixed.
Cloudflare's 30-minute outage and its consequences-
Cloudflare, a popular cloud networking platform, is used by many internet services to keep their websites functional and protect themselves from distributed denial of service attacks. And that is why outages in major CDNs like Cloudflare can affect millions of internet services worldwide.
Cloudflare experienced an outage on July 2, 2019 which caused disruptions to sites and services hosted on the service. Cloudfare’s outage was for 30 minutes which took down hundreds of websites. While Cloudfare kept users updated with its status, nothing could stop frustrated social media users from expressing their discontent.
According to the company, the outage took place because a “bad” software had been deployed. Cloudflare experienced a “massive increase in CPU utilization” due to the deployment. The company successfully removed the faulty software and was able to resume normal operations after about 30 minutes. Things came back on track for its users too.
A lot of popular websites and services were affected by the Cloudflare outage. These included Discord, Flightradar, Network Solutions and Sirius XM. In addition, the services of websites like CoinDesk, Canva and SoundCloud also got disrupted by the outage.Cloudflare, however, clearly stated that the outage was not the result of some attack.
Outages may be rare but not out of the question— Here is what can keep you protected—
The digital ecosystem is growing in its complexity with each passing day. This points at the fact that outages can take place no matter how promising a network provider’s infrastructure looks. That is why you should do everything in your stride to keep yourself protected from such untoward situations.
While Fastly and Cloudflare were quick in responding to the crisis and not just detected but also repaired their respective glitches swiftly, there’s no way for us to know what future outages will look like and how they will be addressed.
Let’s assume there will be a long outage in the future. The reason why we call it “long” is because we want the worst-case scenario in front of us. Now, do you think you can handle it, considering your current preparedness? If not, it’s time you planned your failover and monitoring strategies efficiently.
Note that a detailed Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM) strategy will take your preparedness to the next level. It will help you detect and identify problems faster.A good failover strategy can’t be devised without considering multiple CDNs, especially if you want to tackle serious issues like outages more efficiently and faster.It’s important to monitor every aspect of the application delivery chain.
Since a lot of important data travels through content delivery networks, dependence of websites on them can sometimes become risky without efficient monitoring strategies in place.
CDN monitoring is not just about keeping your CDN provider’s health in radar. A good CDN monitoring strategy must include CDN mapping, monitoring of DNS, cache hit- or- miss ratio and CDN- to- Origin latency.
The importance of a multi-CDN strategy—
Apart from all the above-mentioned strategies, what can help you immensely is having a multi- CDN strategy at work. When you heavily rely on a single CDN, your entire website and all the information in it become vulnerable, especially when network outages occur. When you have multiple CDNs handling your website, your content doesn’t just reach your users faster, but it also stays protected from risks. When there is a problem with one network, you will have alternative networks to help you serve your users without a break. This re-routing of traffic takes place seamlessly through your alternative CDNs and your users won’t even notice any difference in their browsing experience.
Mogi’s Proprietary Mulit-CDN Tech
CDN, as good as it is, comes with its own pitfalls, even after being the fastest way to deliver content. The heavy reliance on CDN’s mean tha tin case of outages, a huge chunk of the internet goes down.
Multi-CDN is a new strategy that is gaining traction across the industry to create redundancies in order to mitigate the affects of CDN outages. Mogi’s innovative multi-CDN solution helps you mitigate this at scale, without the cost pitfalls of multiple CDN’s
Mogi I/O (www.mogiio.com) is an AI enabled Video & Image Delivery SaaS that helps Content Platforms to Improve Customer Engagement by enabling Buffer free Streaming Experience for the user through a patented multi-CDN upstream architecture called Mogi Streaming Engine, Enhanced experience through quality enhancement and compression of up to 50% both during transcoding itself and Deeper user insights through Advanced Video Analytics.
The Mogi Streaming Engine basically jumps between CDN’s based on performance, cost and latency, both on a user level and on a client level. This enable the best experience for your customers and along with it you get a highly compressed output with the same or higher quality. This means not only your contractual pricing is low due to competitive pricing, your bandwidth consumption reduces, and user experiences increases multifold. It’s a win win for all of us (Users, Clients, Mogi).
Mogi’s solutions are available end-to-end (Video Transcoding + Video Player + Mogi Streaming Engine (Multi-CDN delivery) + DRM + Video Analytics) or you can use individual products from the entire suite like just the Video Transcoding. Mogi also provides white label end-to-end plug n play solutions for OTT and EdTech Platforms, with Web, Android and iOS apps as well as a dedicated CMS for OTT and LMS for EdTech. The transcoding architecture’s result includes a highly compressed video of up to 50% with no loss in quality, and if you choose quality enhancement, a 40% compression with enhanced video quality, available in multiple bitrates.
If you want to partner with us and access our products, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org