Ask the Experts: What are Content Delivery Networks?

Welcome to Ask the Experts, brought to you by In this video, Intelisys’ SVP Cloud Transformation Andrew Pryfogle breaks down how content delivery networks help companies of all sizes access content worldwide with Level 3’s Director of Sales Engineering David Montgomery. Find out more about intelligent networks from the Level 3 team here:

Andrew: Okay. Another Ask the Experts session here, as we plow through all this, guys. Great, great stuff. I hope you’re feeling your head get bigger with all this knowledge you’re gaining about cloud and advanced networks. I’ve asked now to join the studio here again, David Montgomery, who’s the Director of Sales Engineering for Level 3, one of our go to faculty members, to understand more stuff around the network and the intelligent network. David, welcome back man.
David: Andrew, thanks.
Andrew: All right. Hey, we’re talking about CDN. Content delivery networks. Level 3 has one of the largest CDNs out there. I wanted to get your take on what CDN is. We’ve given our own definitions, but I’d love to get the Level 3 perspective on this. What is CDN? Why should customers care? What are some of the use cases that are really driving further adoption of content delivery networks?
David: Okay, great thanks. CDN. Content delivery networks. This is essentially, from a Level 3 perspective, this is a … Let’s call it a global platform where we’re able to push content out to end users. Let’s call the eyeballs of the world out there. Different types of content. Be it video, video streaming. Data files. Music. Things of that nature. Any kind of content that multiple people will want to consume, use for multiple purposes.
This content network is set up on a public IP network, again, throughout the globe. We put cache servers out at the edge of the network throughout the world. This is a more efficient way to push information out. What it does for the end users: when an end user needs to pull down a piece of information, rather than having a poor experience and being tied up through multiple hops through the internet or multiple servers, that content is closer to the destination where they’re actually going to be pulling the content into.
Andrew: Got it. It’s all about taking that content–that rich content–and pushing it further out to the edge, closer to where the user is consuming it?
David: Correct.
Andrew: Cuts down the latency. Better performance overall. Sounds like a much better experience for the user that’s viewing the content.
David: Yeah, and there’s efficiencies that are pushed as well from the origination site. If I’m a software provider and I need to push a patch out to somebody, I’ve only got to push out one instance to my CDN provider. And they then take the job of distributing it out to the multiple edge devices where it’s going to be consumed.
Andrew: Got it. It makes the idea of updating all those edge servers, where all that content’s being cached–it’s a lot easier for me as a customer to update that in one central spot.
David: Absolutely.
Andrew: Interesting. Fascinating. Is there also a way for those edge servers to be somewhat maybe geographically aware? Is there a way for a content delivery network to present content that’s custom to a specific source geography? Does that make sense?
David: Yeah. No it does, and it is. That capability is built within the network. So that again, depending on user base and where users are, it’s intelligent enough to know that it needs to push the data to that particular nodes, within the realm of the network. Again, remember this is a large CDN network that spans the globe. I think there are 90 some edge cache servers that sit out there that push incredible amounts of data. In the multiple terabytes of data, each day, as users download things.
Andrew: Yep. No doubt. It seems like more and more customers … They don’t even have to be the large, big social media companies, or big large streamers like an ESPN. Companies of all sizes are trying to figure out how they market their information more effectively across a global geography. CDN becomes really applicable to even companies that are relatively small.
David: Yeah. Absolutely. Use case would be a company that needs to push out training videos to their retail stores that have 300,000 employees across the nation. Here’s an easy way to push out video content to all those stores through one file to the CDN provider. Then it’s able to be consumed. It can be encoded to different types for different types of devices. It can be encoded for iPhone, for Windows, whatever the device would be. It can be pushed out to those end users. It’s a much more efficient way of doing it.
Andrew: With mobility being such an enormous thing now, your user base could be all over the place at any given moment, so to be able to intelligently access that as close to the user as possible. I mean, that’s a game changer for a lot of companies.
David: Yeah. It absolutely is. Yeah.
Andrew: Very cool. Hey David–great, great stuff. Thank you for jumping in. The CDN opportunity is the fascinating one to learn more about. Thanks. I appreciate it.
David: Sure. Thank you.
Andrew: Good deal. Guys, that’s David Montgomery. He is the Director of Sales Engineering for Level 3, one of our go to CDN providers in our portfolio. Get smart about CDN guys, and don’t be afraid to have that conversation. You know, you can go to the Level 3 learning center right at the University and study up on what they’re doing and content delivery networks. And what they’re doing in next generation intelligent networks and how the cloud’s driving that. Fascinating stuff there that can help you get smarter about cloud. Good selling.