Today’s content delivery networks (CDNs) have been around since the late 1990s. While they have grown in size and number of features, the underlying mechanism has remained largely the same. Current CDN vendors operate tens or hundreds of physical servers across the globe that cache content and direct traffic from web requests to content cached on the nearest physical server.
But there are also talks of decentralized CDNs. In this example, the hundreds of large-scale servers would be replaced with tens of thousands of smaller nodes, like personal computers. Here are the four main reasons why decentralized matter — and matter to your business.
Reason 1: Increase Internet Usage
In the early days of the web, most traffic was routed to static web pages and bandwidth was generally very low. (Anyone remember dial-up?) But as technology has broadened internet access and increased download speeds, internet usage has skyrocketed.
According to EMC, the amount of data in the digital world is doubling every two years and will grow 10 times larger between 2013 and 2020! This increase is largely driven by video. Both consumers and businesses are embracing video in an unprecedented way.
In a recent Cisco report, the company projected that 78 percent of all mobile web traffic will be video by 2021. This trend is largely based on higher resolution videos, more videos per day, and the advent of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
Reason 2: Page Load Times
As an added benefit, decentralized content delivery networks can reduce load times — particularly for those who live outside of major city centers.
Today’s CDNs depend on a set number of nodes. In our example, let’s say there are 100 individual locations of servers and data centers. These 100 locations provide a benefit relative to not using a CDN (e.g., all traffic must be routed to the web property owner’s server). But decentralized CDNs can provide a vast improvement.
Instead of depending on 100 locations across the globe, a properly incentivized decentralized CDN could have 100,000 or 1,000,000 nodes. Each node, while smaller, would be much closer to the people who are requesting content. Instead of requesting content from a datacenter run by a corporation, you could be getting web content from your neighbor who has that page cached.
Reason 3: Improved Security
In much the same way, a distributed and decentralized system brings with it security benefits. By spreading the load between more nodes, each in their own geography, there is a reduced risk that a “breach” could cause a massive loss of data.
In addition, a blockchain-based CDN would be able to create immutable records of content and create a clear audit trail, tracking those who access the content but also those who access the infrastructure itself.
Reason 4: Cost
Last, but certainly not least, a decentralized CDN has the promise of being much cheaper to customers.
According to Anthesis Group, up to 30 percent of the servers deployed worldwide are not doing any work! These 10 million physical servers constitute $30 billion of investments that are currently sitting idle. And this cost, of course, is passed on to customers.
We have seen a recent rise in platforms like Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft that effectively connect supply and demand. These services turn previously idle resources, like a spare bedroom or a car, into a more highly utilized asset.
A decentralized content delivery network can provide similar benefits to the computing world. By using the compute, storage, and bandwidth resources of personal computers, a decentralized CDN can reduce its overhead while also helping individuals earn additional revenue.
VideoCoin, a blockchain startup that has developed a decentralized CDN, believes its service can be 50–80 percent cheaper than existing offerings. This provides a dramatic cost savings to companies, in addition to the benefits discussed above.
Content delivery networks have grown both in popularity and importance in the last two decades. As we look forward to better internet coverage, faster download streams, and higher quality cameras on smartphones, we expect internet usage to only increase with time.
It’s worth taking a deep look at decentralized CDNs and understanding how they can impact your business.
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