Tech

Peer-to-peer CDN improves customer experience for Equinix

Datacentre and colocation services provider Equinix has adopted a new method of peer-to-peer content delivery networking (CDN) to help it cut page load times across its downloadable content library, allowing its customers more quickly and easily explore resources to guide them through the digital transformation process.

With over 175 datacentres scattered around the world, 6,500 employees and revenues of over $3.6bn, Equinix is one of the largest suppliers of network interconnects in the world, and frequently ranks near the top of the charts for global infrastructure- and software as a service (IaaS and SaaS) providers.

Equinix’s goal is to be in every single market that its customers want it to be in, and its users often come with questions such as “when are you entering this market?” and “can we work with you when you get there”, says chief customers officer Brian Lillie.

“At the end of the day, you’re trying to connect people to content, whether that’s to a digital brochure, or to something they interact with like an application, so when I think about the network at the core of the digital experience, I think it’s about making that network agile, global and mobile,” Lillie told Computer Weekly.

“The role of networks in a customer-centric digital architecture is pretty key,” he says. “We started about 19 years ago with the core network, and what grew up around it was the content economy, financial systems, services ecosystems, and most recently cloud, and as you grow that digital economy and scale it, it is a big-time attractor of enterprises.”

Equinix maintains an online library – Interconnection-Oriented Architecture Knowledge Base (IOAKB) – that contains blueprints for how CIOs can architect a digitised enterprise and develop and digital business platform levering interconnections, with tutorials covering topics such as networking, security, big data, applications and so on. The library gets visitors from all over the world, says Lillie, but Equinix was seeing some issues arising from this.

“Once I leave the datacentre and want to distribute content via an internet service provider [ISP] my content delivery ends up being only as good as the last mile of connectivity,” said Lillie. “As a former CIO, I see that’s a vexing problem because I look at the apps in the datacentre and see everything is running well with consistent throughput on the datacentre local area network [LAN], no latency, no jitter, and it ends up being the last mile.”

It was this drive to address the last mile of content delivery that led Lillie and Equinix to Edgemesh, a relatively new player in content delivery and web acceleration, having only been generally available for just over six months. However, in that time, it already claims to have been deployed on 3,500 enterprise customer networks, surpassing sector leader and pioneer Akamai by some margin.

“Traditional content delivery is too slow, too costly and too correlated. We realised we needed to change the web, democratise the CDN market and make it fast, diversified and low cost,” says Edgemesh CEO Jacob Loveless. “In 1997, when the first CDN networks were designed, the internet moved around 100 GB per day; today it’s on the order of 26,000 GB per second.

“We needed to rethink the way we design and scale delivery networks and build a platform that can scale into the future.”

Avoiding major infrastructure changes

Edgemesh claims its service, which has been specifically designed as an alternative to legacy CDNs to cut cut page load time by up to 60% and decrease bandwidth fees by up to 90% to enable its users to distribute their content globally all around the world without major infrastructure changes.

Traditional CDN suppliers tend to colocate their services in datacentres – leaving them vulnerable to exactly the same last mile issues and resulting in higher bandwidth fees for users, overloaded edge servers and single points of failure.

By adopting the principles of peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing, Edgemesh enables its customers to colocate their content directly on edge devices and get around the last mile problem. It removes centralised network bottlenecks to replicate local caches between browsers and deliver optimal content, all by adding a small piece of JavaScript to an existing web page to create a so-called “mesh”.

Lillie picked the non-core IOAKB initially for the Edgemesh deployment because it was purely a static library of digital documents, not an enterprise-critical application, and so it was less risky to Equinix’s main business.

He deployed the service in a couple of hours and from day one, saw an instant 50% improvement on page load times, although naturally this initial spike has tapered off as the service is used more widely.

Lillie already plans to roll out the service across Equinix’s business. “We are looking at it for our digital properties, and across our portals, but these are more application-specific and application-heavy, so we will have to see how it works with apps, as opposed to content sites,” he says.

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