MetaCDN takes content delivery networks into the cloud

Australian project makes content delivery affordable for small and medium enterprise

Project chief James Broberg

Project chief James Broberg

It’s an increasing headache for IT and web managers alike — how to combine an organisation’s strategic need for interactive content, such as video, with the availability of core web content without breaking the budget.

Until recently, content delivery networks (CDNs), which place web server clusters in numerous geographical locations to improve the responsiveness and locality of the content it hosts for end-users, were priced out of reach for all by the largest enterprise customers. And while free and academic CDNs such as Coral, and Codeen do exist, they tend to operate on a ‘best effort’ basis, with no service level agreements or quality of service guarantees.

But an Australian cloud computing project aims to change all that, by enabling low cost, high performance, content delivery network via the cloud.

MetaCDN, a project operating out of the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Melbourne, aims to harness the power of cloud storage providers to create an integrated overlay network that provides a low cost, high performance CDN for content creators.

“In the last couple of years we have seen the emergence of cloud storage providers and they've really motivated this project,” said project chief and Australian Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr James Broberg. “They're potentially providing almost unlimited storage and it's on a pay per use basis — you pay for what you store, you pay for the data that moves in and out of the system.”

MetaCDN already has more than 40 cloud storage locations available and expects the number to rise as the months go on. The idea is to make it simple for content creators, many of whom are not necessarily developers, to integrate the service into their website. It also handles load balancing and replication.

“We harness the diversity in terms of the types of deployment locations, the features and the pricing,” Broberg said. “It’s a really good mix. "We're providing a uniform access method to use the services and we're also making it easier for people to integrate them into their own content production workflows, and their own origin web sites."

More importantly, it also significantly lowers the cost of entry for medium and small enterprise.

“There are some pretty big cost savings to be had if you're moving upwards of 250TB of data per month,” Broberg said. “On average, using a traditional CDN, you're looking at upwards of nearly $US80,000 a month but if you're doing the same with Amazon S3 you're looking at around $US30,000. It's quite a big cost saving.”

CDN’s have gone from strength to strength. During Obama’s inauguration this year, network traffic for Akamai, perhaps the best known content delivery service, delivered a peak of more than 7 million simultaneous data streams.

But informal surveys have shown that traditional CDNs are anywhere from two to 15 times more expensive than cloud storage and typically often involve one- or two-year contracts and large amounts of data.

Broberg said MetaCDN’s performance is comparable in terms of throughput and response time to a top tier location.

“We're seeing between 5-8Mbps for some client locations,” he said.

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More about Akamai TechnologiesAmazon Web ServicesUniversity of MelbourneUniversity of Melbourne

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