Over a series of blog posts, I would like to look at public cloud offerings as an additional set of discreet tools in the toolbox of the infrastructure and operations professional. Its’ not a nirvana, not a solution for every problem, and not an ‘all or nothing’decision. These services are simply additional components that you may use to make your job easier, and increase the resiliency, scalability, and cost efficiency of your IT infrastructure or application delivery. In fact, there’s a good chance that you are probably already using cloud services – it just so happens that you were using them before the term ‘cloud infrastructure’ was coined.
Today I’d like to mention a valuable cloud service that many enterprises have been using for many years – Content Delivery Networks. CDNs are pure cloud.
- They are delivered as a service.
- They can be sold on a pay-per-use model.
- The services scale up and down easily.
- The services offer global reach even for a low volume customer.
All of these are made possible by a shared ‘public’ infrastructure, owned and operated by a service provider, giving pricing at scale to all of its customers.
Most are using CDNs to distribute publicly available static files, like web site content, product downloads, etc. CDNs are highly distributed, have no single point of failure, and enhance your publicly available data while allowing you to still maintain control over your SLA by using multiple providers as well as maintaining ownership of the root source of your data.
We currently use Amazon’s CDN, CloudFront, for our website, www.foghornconsulting.com. Since our website is also hosted on Amazon, enabling Cloudfront was as easy as executing a few mouse clicks. The reward was an immediate increase in site performance from all over the world.
For larger sites, the cost of the CDN is often offset by the decrease in cost of the origin site infrastructure and bandwidth. With modern CDNs capable of accelerating most web sites (even those driven by dynamic content), infrastructure teams can get creative on how they can use this tool to enhance the user experience and/or infrastructure efficiency. With more and more applications being delivered via web technologies, this classic offering is just as critical as it has ever been.
Unfortunately, even though the service is perfect for a cloud pricing model, some of the larger vendors have stuck to old enterprise sales contracts, with minimum volume commitments, long terms, and scalability in only one direction (up, not down!). Many new providers and smaller existing providers have made the leap to cloud pricing models, with no up front fees, no volume or term commitments, and competitive pricing. If you are new to CDN, don’t limit your research to the big three. And if you have an existing CDN vendor, make sure to pay attention to your contractual commitments, and be ready to renegotiate and ask for more flexibility when the time is right.
Feel free to comment on how you have implemented CDNs in your infrastructure!