Every CDN has one overriding goal in common, and that is to change the world through technology. It’s also interesting to note that every CDN has a different approach to solving the same challenges when it comes to site performance, security and increasing visitor engagement, retention and conversion. Whatever the approach is, it boils down to the feature set, and the feature set is what separates the innovators from the slackers. The CDN sector is not as commoditized as many think it is. It was once a commodity business a few years back during the days of Akamai, Limelight, EdgeCast and Vital Stream, when the features sets were all the same with very little differentiation, and were in fact kind of boring. It took forever for a feature to make it from concept to production. Product Roadmaps where bloated and inefficient, worse yet, the features all centered around caching techniques, origin storage and streaming.
The only innovative feature of that time was DSA, and boy did Akamai kill it with this feature. They pretty much have a hold on this niche and are still reaping the benefits of DSA all these years later. Today is different, the CDN ecosystem is much more diverse, feature rich and disruptive. The innovation-driven CDNs have mean and lean product roadmaps where features go from concept to market in six months. One of the reasons for this is that we are seeing non-CDN veterans throwing their hats into the CDN ring bringing fresh new ideas and disciplines to the sector. Best of all, new emerging technologies are giving these entrepreneurs unprecedented abilities in doing things that were never possible before. Its all about the feature set baby, and if CDNs aren’t creating unique features at a furious pace, than the lives of their sales rep are going to be miserable. And we said feature “s” with an “s” because in the CDN business, innovative features become mainstream in 12 months or less.
Is the CDN business commoditized? Well, does it look like a commodity business from the illustration below. The CDN business is no longer about caching, storage and streaming. Its about diversity, quality, rapid roll-outs, short feature set development times, and so on. Just imagine the quantity and quality of the feature sets in one year, it’s likely to double.
Snapshot of the CDN Feature Set