The CDN Middleman

NewTeeVee has a post up regarding Akamai’s new HD strategy. If you haven’t heard of Akamai, well you’re probably not reading a lot of video blogs, because the company’s been everywhere lately. Akamai specializes in content delivery networks (CDNs), hosting content in a variety of geographic regions for faster, more efficient transport to end users. It’s a great technology, and no doubt appealing to content distributors who want to make sure their high-quality video gets delivered without a hitch. CDNs have also got to be attractive to broadband service providers who want to show that their networks can handle the demands of new media.

There’s one thing that troubles me though. CDNs naturally give an advantage to the content distributors who are able to buy CDN services. That means that the average Joe trying to stream content gets squeezed out as bandwidth demand grows and viewers migrate to sites that can consistently deliver a smooth video experience. It makes sense – it’s the way the market operates. It’s just a bit sad in my view that we’re moving from the democratizing stage of the Internet to the phase of power consolidation. Call me a bleeding heart.

4 thoughts on “The CDN Middleman”

  1. Awesome. Did you see the NYU paper on CoralCDN that’s on the website? Essentially it makes my point… several years ahead of me.

    “The availability of content on the Internet is to a large degree a function of the cost shouldered by the publisher. A well-funded web site can reach huge numbers of people through some combination of load-balanced servers, fast network connections, and commercial content distribution networks (CDNs). Publishers who cannot afford such amenities are limited in the size of audience and type of content they can serve. Moreover, their sites risk sudden overload following publicity, a phenomenon nicknamed the “Slashdot??? effect, after a popular web site that periodically links to under-provisioned servers, driving unsustainable levels of traffic to them. Thus, even struggling content providers are often forced to expend significant resources on content distribution.”

  2. The one democratizing alternative to this so far has been peer-to-peer. In the US it is seen mostly as something for pirates to use, and is being interfered with by Comcast, as well as by MSOs/ISPs in other countries, notably Canada. However, Joost for example is based on peer-to-peer. Allows them to get the sort of boost a CDN gives others essentially “for free” by piggybacking on the available upload bandwidth of other users. If the Comcast interference is allowed to stand though, that alternative will be stifled as well.

  3. Mari – Yeah, but that’s the purpose of Coral CDN. To give those small websites access to a CDN that they couldn’t otherwise afford.

    I was turned on to Coral CDN a couple of years ago when I posted the first photos of the TiVo Series3 from CES. My little site was HAMMERED, and pretty much brought down. I forget who pointed Coral out to me – might’ve even been Zatz – but I switched my photo links over to Coral and it took the load off my site. Since then I’ve used it for all the photos I’ve posted in my S3 and TiVo HD reviews, CES photos, etc. And it really helps. There is an initial spike but once the proxy network has the images cached, it reduces the load on the site itself.

    CDNs really work, but the barrier to entry for most is too high. Coral CDN is great for those of us running small sites who can’t afford to pay someone like Akamai. Coral isn’t going to provide the same level of performance as an Akamai, but hey, it helps and it is free, so I’m not going to complain. :-)

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