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Aug 13, 2014

Behind the scenes: How Content Delivery Networks leverage optimization technologies

INAP

How Content Delivery Networks leverage optimization technologiesEstablishing a reliable web presence is the best way to maintain competitive advantage for your business. Large websites often rely on Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) as an effective way to scale to a larger and more geographically distributed audience. A CDN acts as a network of caching proxy servers, which transparently cache and deliver static content to end users.

There are many CDN providers to choose from, but what makes Internap unique is the combination of optimization technologies that we employ. Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at how these technologies complement one another and work transparently to improve the user experience and accelerate performance.

You may be familiar with Managed Internet Route Optimizer (MIRO), Internap’s route optimization technology that forms the basis of our Performance IP product. MIRO constantly watches traffic flows, and performs active topology discovery and probing to determine the best possible route between networks. After our recent revamp of MIRO, some of our busiest markets are exceeding half a million route optimizations per hour, resulting in significantly lower latency and more consistent performance.

Our CDN also employs a proprietary TCP congestion avoidance algorithm, which evaluates and dynamically adjusts to network conditions. It ensures that short data transfers, such as HTML, Javascript libraries, style sheets and images occur as quickly as possible, while larger file downloads maintain consistent throughput.

Finally, the CDN’s geographic DNS routing system sends requests to the nearest available CDN POP based on service provisioning, geographic proximity, network and server load and available capacity.

All CDN transactions begin with DNS
When a client issues a DNS request to the CDN, DNS routing is handled by a routing methodology called anycast. Internap has a large deployment of CDN DNS servers around the globe, and with anycast, we use BGP to announce a prefix for our DNS servers in each of these locations. The client’s request gets routed to the nearest DNS server based on BGP hop count.

When a DNS request is received, MIRO observes this DNS activity and immediately begins probing and optimizing to find the best possible provider for that DNS traffic. The CDN DNS system evaluates the request and responds with the address of the nearest available CDN POP. The client then establishes a connection and sends a request to an edge cache server in that selected POP. Once again, MIRO observes the network traffic, and immediately begins probing and optimizing to find the best possible provider for the network traffic.

If the requested content is in the cache, then the cache server begins sending it. TCP acceleration takes over and begins optimizing the TCP connection, which ensures CDN content is delivered as quickly and smoothly as network conditions allow. If the requested content is not in the cache, then the cycle repeats itself, but between the CDN edge server and the origin of the content.

The best experience is achieved with a globally distributed origin that employs geographic DNS routing, such as Internap’s distributed CDN storage solution. With CDN storage, content can be replicated in up to 5 different locations across the globe, and the CDN DNS system routes the request to the nearest available location. MIRO also optimizes the experience between the edge and origin servers, both for the DNS request and the content retrieval. TCP acceleration ensures that the transfer happens with the lowest latency and highest throughput possible.

With the recent revamp of Internap’s HTTP content delivery platform, we’re continuing to maintain our commitment to performance. We have upgraded our cache servers to use SSDs instead of hard disks, and added some new performance-oriented features, such as the SPDY protocol. All of these new capabilities will further enhance the user experience and accelerate performance.

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Oct 8, 2013

Georgia Tech uses CDN to reach global student base

Ansley Kilgore

Georgia Tech uses CDNFor universities with a large international student base, the ability to distribute timely class content is critical. As one of the nation’s top research universities, Georgia Tech ensures that students around the world receive the same top-quality education as those on campus. A Content Delivery Network (CDN) provides a seamless content distribution process without placing additional burden on the University’s finances or infrastructure.

The Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE) unit meets the demand for timely, high quality content with Internap’s CDN. The technology has delivered results across multiple areas, including decreased cost, streamlined processes and increased scalability.

The CDN solution
CDNs are purpose-built to distribute content, and offer multiple ways to create a high-quality online user experience through media distribution, large file download and website caching. Internap’s CDN includes multiple Points of Presence (POPs) across the globe, which means content can be cached in edge POPs that are located in closer proximity to the end users. This provides a high-quality, low-latency online experience for students regardless of their location, because they are accessing the content from a nearby edge POP. The global reach of Internap’s CDN allows students to participate in broadcasts via live streaming or download large files on demand.

Thanks to Internap’s CDN, students are able to quickly and reliably access live and on-demand content. Even with increasingly high demand for online learning, the CDN provides high performance, smooth streaming and an overall high quality experience for users.

Decreased cost – Prior to using a CDN, Georgia Tech was shipping CDs and DVDs of class content to students around the globe, costing approximately $250,000 per year. Additional expenses included reproduction of CDs and DVDs, along with the cost of blank media, packaging and labels. Without the need to ship course content to students, Georgia Tech is able to cut costs significantly.

Streamlined processes – Managing and distributing content in a timely manner becomes more difficult as the number of remote students increases. The ability to store media files on the CDN significantly reduces the administrative processes required to create, package and send CDs and DVDs to locations around the world.

Reduced infrastructure burden – The capacity of Georgia Tech’s campus-based servers quickly filled up with the large amount of content, creating a need for scalable storage options that are not dependent upon the limitations of University resources. The CDN provides scalable storage capacity that takes the burden off the University’s physical servers and infrastructure.

Using a CDN, Georgia Tech Professional Education has successfully reduced the cost of delivering content to students, decreased the administrative burden on internal processes and removed the load and bandwidth concerns from its own architecture. Most importantly, students around the world have timely access to course content and can tune-in live or download past broadcasts via the Internet, regardless of their geographic location.

For more information on how CDN can benefit your organization, download the CDN Buyer’s Guide.

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Sep 4, 2013

Customer Spotlight: Realview TV launches StudentBridge using CDN

Ansley Kilgore

Realview TV launches StudentBridge using CDNRealview TV specializes in creating and delivering custom online video experiences to help their clients strategically connect with target audiences. Jonathan Clues, CEO, has believed for a long time that video is poised to take over the Internet and now sees the tides changing in the near future as demand increases for more interactive, video-based web experiences. Static websites as we know them will become a thing of the past.

In support of this strategy, Realview TV recently launched StudentBridge, which connects prospective college students with educational institutions. With today’s students visiting on average 30 college websites while researching their choices, access to compelling information regarding the campus and its culture is essential for differentiation. Through branded online video experiences such as virtual campus tours, StudentBridge helps traditional universities strategically promote themselves, while also helping prospective students research and make better decisions about their ideal school.

With more than 1 million videos viewed per month, StudentBridge requires a reliable Content Delivery Network (CDN) to distribute such large amounts of online content. As an Internap customer since 2006, Realview TV uses the CDN to store and deliver rich media files across multiple devices.

The content cloud
According to Clues, the future vision for StudentBridge is to establish multiple distribution outlets and become the content cloud for their clients. This would allow universities to store content on the StudentBridge CDN and seamlessly deliver it to users via different platforms, including social media outlets, websites and mobile devices.

While many universities and businesses are using YouTube to host their online videos, StudentBridge’s content cloud approach offers a more targeted way to drive results. Even though YouTube is an effective way to do research online, it also serves as a search engine that provides information on similar companies and services. This means consumers that are actively looking at video content about your organization on YouTube are also seeing information about your competition. With a CDN, businesses can drive users to their own environment and have a higher degree of control over the content (tweet this). This type of strategy will allow StudentBridge clients to achieve better results through more targeted messaging.

StudentBridge is headquartered in the USA with a satellite office in London. With the global capabilities of Internap’s CDN, they are well-prepared to expand into international markets. CDNs are purpose-built for distributing rich media to origin points in geographically dispersed locations, allowing StudentBridge to provide quality online video to students around the world.

As online content continues to become more video-centric, having a strategic plan that governs how your organization is perceived by users is essential. Consumers will keep consulting the Internet as a first step in many buying decisions, and businesses of all types, including universities, need to deliver the right content to the right audience in order to stay competitive.

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Apr 16, 2013

Cloud and CDN: Friends or Foes?

Ansley Kilgore

Cloud and CDNToday’s online users expect high-quality, ‘anytime, anywhere’ access from a multitude of devices. This presents a challenge for content providers to deliver multiple types of large files, including streaming media, Video on Demand (VOD) and other large files to tablets and smartphones, all while maintaining the high-quality online experience that users have come to expect. Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) are often used as an efficient way to distribute large amounts of content in this manner.

But with the growth of cloud computing, companies have embraced new, cost-effective approaches to IT Infrastructure. The challenge of scaling is no longer prohibitively expensive, and the ability to scale virtually, on-demand has leveled the playing field for small- and medium-sized businesses to compete with large enterprises for market share. With the substantial performance and cost improvements provided by the cloud, this often leads to the misconception that the cloud alone can maintain the high-quality online experience that consumers demand.

In reality, the cloud and CDNs have specific purposes that make them well-suited to work together.

The cloud is a utility computing platform that consists of large physical stacks of computational resources, or, multi-tenant slices of a pre-built mass computational array. This type of dynamic computing power is ideal for processing big data and business intelligence problems, and evolved from the concept of mainframes in a past decade.

CDNs are utility delivery platforms that specialize in one-to-many distribution as opposed to the two-way interactive exchange performed by utility computing platforms. In contrast to the cloud, CDNs are designed specifically to deliver content from servers to the end-users as part of a repeatable process.

High-performance content delivery is a must for websites or online applications serving geographically-dispersed end users. Using the cloud and a CDN together creates a holistic system that meets the demands for content delivery as well as economical computing power. This best-of-both-worlds combination results in an optimal online user experience when incorporated into your IT Infrastructure strategy.

To learn more about the specific purposes and benefits of CDNs and the cloud and how these two platforms work together to meet the content delivery needs of today’s online users, download our white paper, CDN: A Cloud Accelerant.

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Apr 9, 2013

The relationship between cloud and content delivery networks (CDNs)

Ansley Kilgore

cloud and content delivery networks (CDNs)Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) have helped organizations scale their applications and website content for years. However, the prevalence of cloud computing has sparked misunderstandings about the relationship between cloud and CDNs.

As the lines between the cloud and CDN continue to blur, the question often arises of whether CDNs are still necessary. To the contrary, a CDN actually drives cloud adoption through enhanced performance, scalability, security and cost savings.

In this online discussion hosted by Cloud Ecosystem, Internap’s Pete Mastin discusses the relationship between CDNs and the cloud, and how it can benefit your business.

For more information on the relationship between CDNs and cloud, download the white paper, CDN: A Cloud Accelerant.

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Apr 5, 2013

Solve enterprise video delivery challenges with CDNs

Ansley Kilgore

video delivery challenges with CDNsContent Delivery Networks (CDNs) are essential for enterprises that need to meet the demands of next-generation multi-device video delivery. Some challenges include:

Mobile – Even for enterprises with a successful track record of live streaming, the demand for mobile media delivery presents a new set of challenges. The BYOD (bring your own device) phenomenon has forced many IT organizations to address this.

New devices – The ability to adapt content for different devices is an essential part of enterprise video delivery. New devices require different ways to deliver content to users, and adaptive bitrate (ABR) technology can adjust the stream as needed to allow users with different bitrates to view the same content.

Competing standards – Even though http streaming is becoming the de facto standard, CDN solution providers still need to provide transcoding solutions that convert videos into multiple formats to reach a broader audience.

As an Internap customer for more than a decade, Jolokia provides hosting, streaming and IT services using a private cloud infrastructure, with worldwide content distribution and dynamic application acceleration technologies. Jolokia has a broad client base of SaaS application providers and clients that require support for delivery of live and on-demand rich media.

Download our CDN Overview to learn more.

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Apr 4, 2013

Back to GDC: Trends in the online gaming industry

INAP

stock-mobile-gaming_devices_300x150We were back at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco last week! It was an interesting and educative journey; GDC is a great opportunity to experience the many facets of the gaming world, from developers and publishers with big household names to indie developers and the different tools that enable them to enter the market. Throughout the sessions and while walking and talking on the expo floor, there was a lot to be experienced, including big reveals like Battlefield 4 and the impressive Unreal Engine 4 demo.

I noticed a few big takeaways:

CDN is still king
In our current era of patching and DLC (downloadable content), having a reliable and efficient content delivery network (CDN) has become a necessity due to the frequency and large file size needed for patching. Since delivery via a CDN is at least 5x faster than no cache and origin delivery, this is a no brainer for the gaming industry. One can’t expect to have a newly-released patch take too long or keep a significant portion of your players out because they don’t have the latest version without bracing for significant backlash.

This was very evident after attending Arenanet’s session about their successful MMO Guild Wars 2 (MMOs are notorious for their reliance on patching both to apply critical fixes and to add new content). Arenanet needed a custom CDN solution (something our CDN ops team regularly provides to gaming customers) to ease their patching woes and enable players to obtain the latest patch from either Arenanet or the CDN as soon as the patch went live.

Time for indie?
Even though the rise of the indie developer has been a long time coming, this year’s GDC heavily showcased a number of new SDKs (software development kits) specifically tailored to lower the barrier of entry for them. These tools were focused mostly on HTML5 and JavaScript, allowing developers to easily import their web-ready content or games to new platforms.

Also interesting is that this new direction is apparent on consoles, too. Nintendo showcased their Web Development kit that allows developers to transfer content to the Wii U, which isn’t surprising given the rise of sales in the online store for each of the three consoles. Another development in this area was the strong showing of the Unity game engine, given their Indie support community and lower cost (free for the basic version). What does this all mean? There’s already an increased demand for hosting services across the industry, and these tools help not only to continue but to increase that trend.

What about cloud?
There was a lot of talk about cloud as well, from recent offerings to new improvements and updates from cloud providers. One recurring theme, however, was that developers were looking for smoother and easier ways to spin up cloud instances globally depending on peak game times. We agree that automation is key for the gaming vertical – rapid game development cycles and notoriously fickle players demand infrastructure agility. Our Hosting API allows developers to spin up instances as peak times occur throughout the day and through different geographical regions, and our monitoring tools allow developers to keep track of when and where new instances should be spun up.

See you next time at GDC! In the meantime, check out our online gaming success kit.

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Apr 2, 2013

Six ways CDNs drive cloud adoption

Ansley Kilgore

AgileFILES Now Integrated with the AgileCLOUD PlatformTransitioning your IT Infrastructure to the cloud offers several benefits, including improved operational efficiency, reduced capital expenses and the ability to provision new servers quickly. As a result, companies can increase their competitive advantage and expand their infrastructure as needed without purchasing costly hardware. Leveraging the power of the cloud can increase agility and allow your business to respond quickly to changes in market demand.

But the cloud also presents new challenges that can disrupt your plans. For a successful cloud transition, consider including a Content Delivery Network (CDN) as part of your strategic IT planning. Without CDNs, the cloud would not be able to meet the performance expectations of today’s online users.

Below are six obstacles to cloud adoption that CDNs help address.

1. Security – A CDN can help ward off raw volume DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks that can leave your web servers inaccessible to users. CDNs essentially absorb the load and prevent the servers from becoming overwhelmed by abnormally high traffic volume. Without a CDN to act as a buffer, cloud servers would be vulnerable to attack, which is particularly important for ecommerce websites with servers that store personal data and account information.

2. Availability of service – By setting Time to Live (TTL), content providers can control how long a piece of static content will remain cached. CDN edge POPs (Points of Presence) will continue to deliver the cached content packet for this duration, and will check with the server after this time period expires to see if the content has changed. By setting TTL appropriately, core web servers can experience an outage without causing any interruption to content distribution via the edge POPs.

3. Data transfer bottlenecks – In addition, CDNs help prevent data transfer bottlenecks by efficiently delivering content through multiple egress points to distribute the load. By leveraging a CDN, businesses can scale the egress throughput, which allows the core infrastructure to use its bandwidth for the compute traffic.

4. Performance Assurance – With the growing use of tablets, smartphones and other devices, content providers must be able to deliver streaming media and large amounts of data with minimal latency, or risk losing customers to the competition. Once content is cached in a CDN POP, a repeatable process delivers content from one to many, resulting in lower latency for end users and better server performance.

5. Scalable Storage – CDN file storage devices offer flexibility options that scale as needed. In contrast, cloud storage is available in fixed amounts that can only be scaled up or down by contacting your cloud storage provider. CDN storage devices can scale up based on the size of the content packet to be distributed, resulting in increased operational agility for your business.

6. Scaling – The ability to offload rich media to the CDN allows the compute platform to run more efficiently, and by shouldering the load, the CDN reduces the risk of web servers becoming overwhelmed. As a multi-tenant application, CDN provides more extra capacity than most individual businesses can afford to build. While the cloud provides an interactive computing platform, the ability to scale offers end-users the ability to efficiently consume and share content.

If your company is evaluating cloud hosting solutions, be sure to include CDNs as part of your strategy. Using CDN and cloud together can address these challenges and create the right IT Infrastructure for an optimal online user experience.

To learn more about the relationship between CDNs and the cloud, read our white paper, CDN: A Cloud Accelerant.

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Jan 3, 2013

Game publishers turning to web content, making managed hosting essential

INAP

Video game content is no longer about what you see while actually playing the game. During the past few years, more and more developers and publishers have been implementing web and mobile sites that allow users to interact with their games anytime. As these types of community interaction methods become more popular, Managed Hosting solutions (layered with great performance options) become important for game publishers. Let me explain.

Using web content to supplement game experiences
EA Sports is a prime example of the trend toward supplementing game content on the web. Over the course of the past few years, the company has used various web systems in conjunction with its Madden and NCAA Football franchises. These solutions have ranged from team-building platforms that let users load teams into the game to blog pages that track happenings in online leagues and allow players to do write-ups of league games and seasons.

The technical ramifications of web-based experiences
These types of web systems offer video game enthusiasts the ability to get involved in their games in more ways. For example, somebody commuting to work using public transit or on the bus to school can use a tablet or smartphone to access the mobile version of the website and interact with friends involved in the league and keep up with what is going on with teams. It is also the kind of thing that more developers and publishers are experimenting with in other genres.

However, using web-based content to supplement the in-game experience also puts pressure on the publisher to not only host the data-rich systems, but also ensure they are available and secure. Most game developers and publishers do not consider maintaining a data center a core competency. As a result, it can be difficult to afford and manage the types of web systems needed to get end users the content they want in a way that makes them happy. Another area that publishers forget to consider is the IP and Content Delivery Network (CDN) that their games are traveling over. There are differences, and they matter.

This is where Managed Hosting plans can pay major dividends. A cloud or Dedicated Hosting plan can give game developers and publishers the server space and customization capabilities they need to create content that can meaningfully supplement their games and engage users. Layer that with Performance IP and CDN and you have an excellent platform to deliver your gaming solution. This adds value to the game experience and creates revenue opportunities. Managed Hosting + Performance IP and content delivery is the winning ticket in gaming.

Check out our online gaming solution sheet to learn more.

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Dec 13, 2012

Wii U update points to importance of content delivery services

INAP

 importance of content delivery servicesMany consumers who went home with a new Wii U on November 18 were dismayed by the need to download a firmware update that in some cases took more than an hour to complete. Nintendo recently announced another firmware update coming out for the console and warned that it also will take an hour or more to download for many users.

As a result, Content Delivery Network (CDN) and web acceleration solutions are becoming vital to the video game industry. You don’t want to have somebody buy a game that you just released only to have them wait an hour before they can even play it. If you are supporting digital downloads, you want to make sure the process does not take so long that users become frustrated with your game before they even make it to the title menu.

The evolution of system performance
As hardware evolves to the point that 1080p resolutions are commonplace, data distribution problems can emerge. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are both outdated from a hardware standpoint. When the new versions of those consoles come out, which most experts anticipate will happen in 2013, the video game industry will likely take a major stride forward in game and hardware performance. Furthermore, the heightened hardware capabilities in consoles will likely lead to developers taking advantage of more PC capabilities as well, as they have been limited by the low baseline established by current consoles.

This creates an environment in which performance throughout games — not just in terms of graphics, but also in artificial intelligence, social interaction, network functionality and motion sensing — could rise in almost every genre and type of game. At the same time, system management will also become more complex, leading to the need for major firmware updates like the ones Nintendo is dealing with. All of this is compounded by the need to treat all consoles like computers from a security standpoint and make regular updates to deal with any vulnerability.

The future of content delivery
So, why does this evolution matter? When Nintendo asked users to wait more than an hour for a download, it was unheard of. This may not be the case for long. With the amount of data that will go into games and systems during the next few years, large updates will likely be necessary. This makes data delivery a priority for developers, publishers and console OEMs because they have to make sure data gets to end users without such long download times. Otherwise, update and patching speeds could become a customer service issue moving forward, something that is already prevalent in online video games and will likely become more prominent as games get more expansive and intelligent.

Nintendo’s initial struggles with Wii U firmware updates, while understandable, point to the problems that could be coming with next-generation video games. Some issues could be specific to the Wii U firmware and the nuances of the console, but the data transit climate needed to support advanced video game functionality should not be downplayed. Network services can help companies overcome some of these problems and put themselves in a solid position to keep their customers happy through efficient updates and content delivery processes.

To learn more about the importance of efficient content delivery for game developers and publishers, download the Online Gaming Industry Handbook.

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