Power of peer to peer protocol

Netflix has a peer accelerated CDN

Jacob Loveless, CEO, Edgemesh argues that we can no longer rely on legacy CDN to deliver content to the end user, exploring how peer accelerated CDN’s help deliver content like Netflix.

With the global e-commerce market expected to reach $4 trillion by 2020, we are no longer able to rely on weak internet to entice customers and grow e-businesses. Netflix, a popular internet-based video service among millennials, delivers a myriad of content to millions of viewers simultaneously around the globe. Most notably though, users have almost identical experiences regardless of geographical location and broadband capacity. Posing the real question of, how Netflix is able to achieve such a globally consistent CDN service.

The answer, Netflix has its own private proprietary and somewhat game changing content distribution. In order to maintain fast, reliable and low-cost content distribution Netflix identified that data needs to be brought to the user and not the other way around.

The problem

 The internet works today much as it has for the past 40 years. Edge, or last mile, regional networks consolidate into metropolitan networks which, depending on device density, consolidate into regional networks. From there, the Internet Exchange points further consolidate traffic into major delivery hubs.

The issue with this being that these consolidation points can often lead to major congestion. Not too dissimilar to a traffic-jam, whereby if everyone is going north – no-one can get there quickly; with internet traffic, we observe this as increased latency, poor quality and complete unavailability. 

How the Netflix Changed the game

Netflix, changing the game for CDN's
Netflix, changing the game for CDN’s

Recognising that congestions would lead to a poor user experience, Netflix embarked on a radical new Content Delivery Network design in 2011 called Open Connect. The concept was simple, bring the content to the edge by placing copies of the entire Netflix catalogue inside regional and metropolitan ISPs. With Open Connect, Netflix delivers a server to ISPs that allows Netflix customers to stream thousands of titles all without ever leaving their local ISP. When every second of load time counts, every kilometer of fibre matters.

Why can’t everyone do this?

The idea of bringing content to the edge is not a new idea however, the sheer scale of the Netflix CDN is something no single company had ever done. With Open Connect, Netflix has dramatically increased performance while decreasing backbone costs and its own bandwidth fees.

With an evident array of benefits, why doesn’t every CDN do what Netflix does and place caches for their customer in every regional ISP? The simple answer, economics.

For Netflix, each point of presence is the cost of a single server (between $10,000 and $20,000), but deploying caching for a multitude of customers and content types would require hundreds of servers per location. Furthermore, since Netflix directly controls the end user application, the complex logic for determining when to stream from a Netflix server can be built into the application itself. If we wanted to accelerate arbitrary websites – we would need a way to help ‘direct’ the browser to caches inside the local ISP. But a new breed of delivery platforms has seemingly cracked the code – using peer to peer assisted networks.

Deliver like Netflix: Peer Assisted Content Delivery Networks

In a peer to peer (P2P) model, devices communicate directly with each other rather than centralised servers. This is the model employed by most video chat systems (FaceTime, WhatsApp Etc.).

By leveraging P2P technology, and combining this with browsers that are already built in cache, peer assisted CDN’s such as Edgemesh are able to offer a Netflix style localised delivery to customers, without the complexity of deploying in-situ server infrastructure.

Peer accelerated CDN’s utilise the browser native Web Real Time Communications (WebRTC) protocol to enable direct browser to browser connectivity. Once content is downloaded into a regional network, it can then be replicated across other devices transparently – allowing multiple users to access the same content without ever leaving the local networks. For Edgemesh, 100% of the required functionality is delivered in the browser. This allows customers to add mesh capability with no additional software installation content viewers.

Unlike traditional models, where chokepoints exhibit the worst performance precisely when the most users are active – mesh networks have reverse scaling. The more users who access the content, the larger the overall network capacity and the faster the experience comes. Stretching across more than 100 countries, mesh acceleration results are surprisingly consistent. P2P accelerated content is delivered on average 32% faster than traditional CDNs alone, while reducing backbone bandwidth by up to 90%.

So, how does Netflix move its content?

In summary, we are still in the early days of the edge computing revolution, but with data rates continuing to explode and the army of IoT on the horizon – the mesh network model is changing the way the internet works.

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