The New High Performance CDN

Being the fastest CDN today, doesn’t guarantee the CDN will be the fastest tomorrow. The constant change in hardware architecture and design, makes it challenging for CDNs to stay ahead of the performance curve. The fastest server today, will be legacy in few months. Five years ago, CDNs standardized on disk spindles, both for small file object delivery, and large file video delivery. Standard drives are now legacy.

Legacy Servers

Five years ago, Akamai had about 100,000 servers running on standard drives. Limelight, Highwinds, and other CDNs, had thousands of servers running on standard drives. Then came along SSD drives. SSD drives are game changers. It’s not a question of “should we upgrade our servers” but “when”. Now these CDNs have to replace millions of dollars in server infrastructure, to make room for servers based on SSD drives. At the same time, a new crop of CDNs like MaxCDN, built their server infrastructure on SSD drives from the get go.

The New Crop of CDNs

Now, there is another technology on the horizon, that is going to disrupt the CDN server market again, thus making servers built for SSD, legacy. The new crop of servers are going to come with 1TB of RAM. Then, it will be 2TB of RAM, 3TBs, and so on. The new crop of CDNs serving small files (non-video) are going to build their server infrastructure on RAM packed servers.

One rack of 20 to 30 servers, translates to 20TB to 40TB of RAM. Google and Facebook deliver content from RAM. CDNs are next. The RAM-based CDNs are going to raise the bar very high for existing CDNs. How much faster is RAM than SSD, check this out.

  • SSD Drives – read/write rates of 250MB/sec
  • DDR3-1600 = read/write rates of 12,000MB+/sec

It’s not even close. RAM is so much faster than SSD. Two startups that could benefit from RAM based delivery, Instart Logic and Yottaa. Both specialize in serving small file, not streaming video. I bet a new crop of RAM-based CDNs will arise in the next 2 years.