Fastly and Apple CDN


According to many pundits in the tech world, Apple is building an internal CDN. The caching software is one of the key components of a CDN platform, and also one of the more complex when building a CDN. Implementing BGP anycast routing, developing dashboards, and building logging system is not as complex as the caching platform. The caching platform must be optimized to deliver small objects, large files, SSL, create content rules on the fly, deal with authentication, and much more, on a global scale, that work together as a unit.

It took Comcast about 6 to 8 months to build out their internal CDN, on the Apache Traffic Server. Yet, they had to use some external tools like Splunk, to ingest and report on the logging data. There are many pieces of software needed to create a comprehensive caching platform, like the load balancing component, administrative server, logging system, monitoring system, and so on.

Http Caching Developers

There are two types of http caching developers in this field, the really smart engineers that learn and build caching platforms on the fly, and the veteran http caching developers with years of experience working for a CDN. The latter belong to an elite group of developers, many of them millionaires, that are highly prized within their organization . Each CDN usually has 1 or 2, in their ranks, with the exception of Akamai, who probably has a dozen. These folks are usually considered legends among their engineering peers.

When other engineers are in awe of a certain engineer, you know that certain engineer is like Neo in the Matrix, where the world is nothing but ones and zeros to them. If I had to guess, Apple employs the smart engineers that build things on the fly, like a CDN platform. The smart engineers will eventually figure it out, it just takes a little longer.

This leads to the question, Why is Apple building a CDN from scratch? It’s going to take too much time to build, too much time to test, and too much time to figure out the idiosyncrasies of CDN caching software. Apple should license Fastly. Fastly has a great product, and they have invested thousands and thousands of man hours building their platform. Why Fastly and not Akamai? Apple already uses Akamai, having redundant providers is good strategy for a company the size of Apple. In my opinion, Fastly is the perfect fit for Apple CDN.

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