Melissa Fremeijer (Senior Research Analyst)

Since the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdowns, we have seen that the majority of networks, including the internet, have been able to sustain the unprecedented growth in traffic volumes. There have been many efforts from communications service providers (CSPs), for example, to ramp up network capacity and connectivity, while video streaming providers have downgraded video to SD quality to decrease bandwidth needs.

Though all of these have had a positive impact on sustained connectivity, the resiliency of the networks lies largely in the deployment of content delivery networks (CDNs) or edge servers.

The Whole World Moved Online

COVID-19 has drastically impacted everyone and everywhere in the world, both in our private and work lives. The restrictions on movement and physical engagements have forced everyone to take our daily activities into the virtual space, affecting the way we communicate across learning, working, transacting, and consuming.

In addition to people having to work from home, academic lessons have been moved to the virtual space, doctors are consulting patients remotely, and people are shopping online more than ever before. Even social interactions such as meeting friends for drinks, partying, singing, and making music together have been moved online through video calling.

Streaming services have emerged as a leading source of entertainment and information, resulting in a surge in on-demand video services from the likes of Netflix and for gaming.

How do CDNs Work and What is Their Core Value?

The basic function of a CDN is to replicate or store (cache) the multiple copies of internet content. This includes web objects (text, graphics, and scripts), downloadable objects (media files, software, documents), applications (ecommerce, portals), live streaming media, on-demand streaming media, and social networks.

The main purposes of a CDN is to speed up the delivery of content to end users by minimizing latency, reducing bandwidth consumption and costs, and providing scalability needed to handle high peak traffic loads.

This all makes CDNs a requisite technology to battle the traffic surges that have taken place since the COVID-19 outbreak.

More Than Caching Alone

In addition to CDNs’ edge value proposition to bring content closer to users and regulate traffic in an efficient way, CDN providers, also referred to as edge cloud providers, also help (video) content providers and end users to minimize video traffic and download traffic.

From a video traffic angle this includes the optimization of bit rates during video traffic delivery. From a download traffic angle — software downloads, whether for video games, patches, or system updates, are among the biggest traffic drivers on the internet — CDN providers’ technology helps game publishers limit the speed of downloading and avoid congestion.

This is a powerful solution aside to shifting high-traffic download events to off-peak times to reduce spikes.

The edge is also important when it comes to security. Security at the edge increases endpoint and access security and limits hackers from accessing the corporate networks at its core.

The dramatic shift to home working in the past two months and the very short time span in which workplaces have been set up has considerably increased security risks for enterprises and fueled the need for edge security solutions.

The Surge in Traffic According to Global CDN Providers

Akamai, a key global edge cloud provider, witnessed a 30% increase (over March) in global traffic (and an increase of 20% in EMEA) delivered from the edge compared to the approximate 3% growth during a typical month. Peaks on Akamai’s platform caused by major streaming video events, including live sports as well as file delivery for software downloads and online gaming, have doubled in 12 months. Akamai reported peak traffic of over 165Tbps — more than double the peak of 1Q19.

Other key global players such as AWS Cloudfront, Verizon, CenturyLink, Limelight, and Microsoft Azure CDN also indicated large traffic volumes from their cloud edge/POPs. Verizon and CenturyLink reported an uptick in CDN traffic of 20% and 25% respectively. For Verizon, the majority of the increase came from VOD, dynamic, and static content traffic (entertainment, news, gaming, and content downloads).

For most CDN providers there has been a drop in traffic from live streaming events due to the cancellation of sports and entertainment events. Home schooling has fueled the uptake of traffic in the education sector and dependency on CDNs where online learning platforms in Europe connect millions of teachers and students every day.

Importance of CDNs Accelerates

Considering the massive uptake of CDN traffic volumes in terms of caching services but also related performance, (media) delivery optimization services, and CDN security services in the first quarter of 2020, IDC recently revised the CDN forecast upward. This resulted in an uplift of 6% for 2020 and 24% growth in 2020, compared with the previously projected growth of 16%. IDC expects the CDN services market in Europe to reach $2.6 billion in 2024.

It’s clear that CDNs have become more important in the past two decades as the world has shifted online, from shopping, to social networks, streaming media, gaming, and much more.

Needless to say, these CDNs and related edge cloud solutions have become even more important in the past three months to increase the resiliency of the internet as traffic volumes surged to new peaks. And this will continue as internet use grows further, even in the post-COVID-19 era.

 

To learn more, please contact Melissa Fremeijer or drop your details in the form on the top right.

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