Ted Middleton, Head of Product – CDN and Frank Orozco, Chief CDN Technology & Products Officer
Verizon Digital Media Services’ Edgecast Content Delivery Network is always evolving. As long as technology continues to advance, engineers will be at work perfecting the enterprise CDN to meet and surpass customers’ increasing expectations.
We caught up with Frank Orozco, Chief Technology Officer – Delivery/CDN, and Ted Middleton, Head of Product – CDN, about the endless improvements in store. The resulting Q&A reads a bit like a “State of the Union” for the content delivery network. Read on to learn about Edgecast’s recent advancements and successes:
Q: What are some of the key focuses of your work on the Edgecast CDN?
Ted Middleton: We maintain a constant investment in performance. We’re regularly optimizing not only its hardware and software, but the network itself. We’re always striving to make sure we’re at the pole position when it comes to scale, reliability and security.
Q: Can you tell us about the updates you’ve been making to the Edgecast CDN recently?
Ted Middleton: We’ve adopted some new protocols and standards. As of last year, we’d implemented support for HTTP2. We’re finishing up development on a protocol called QUIC, led by Google, with particular optimizations around mobile.
Now, we have research and development efforts underway to look at supporting the Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile optimization beyond the aforementioned protocols. Additionally, we’re always looking for ways to further optimize for video and rich media applications. Scale is key, so we’re working on optimizing our video platform for session management and scaling to multiple millions of concurrent users with high quality.
Frank Orozco: We have well over 45 concurrent projects in progress right now. Our focus is to optimize the delivery, security and acceleration of everything served on the CDN, from static assets to video files and manifests, to dynamic platforms for some of our biggest partners. We have deep expertise in-house: from low-level teams working on custom kernel implementations, to C++ developers working on our core systems and optimizations, all the way up to front-end developers working on RESTful API solutions and improved customer experience through our Portals.
Our team is constantly looking at changes in the media delivery landscape. We focus on microsecond and millisecond improvements, because that’s what matters to our customers. We have a maniacal focus on performance.
Q: How will these current projects affect the Edgecast CDN’s performance in the near future?
Frank Orozco: At a scale perspective, the investments we’ve made in our infrastructure this year and the past several years have allowed us to reach a capacity limit of 36 terabits per second. With that in mind, our history should be a pretty good indicator of where we go in 2018. We will continue to expand data centers, super PoP (point of presence) locations, capacity and peering connections, both in North America and globally.
The marketplace is taking note, too. Cedexis, a company that ranks CDNs by global performance, ranks us or our resellers in three of their top five.
Q: In terms of scale, are there any big build outs or expansions on your radar?
Ted Middleton: We’re on a continuous replacement cycle of our next-generation PoPs, which are designed to provide quality service, performance and delivery. Our next-generation POP & Network architecture that we’ve been deploying for coming up on 2 years is designed to better address metro-area, multi-facility PoP deployments and multi-terabit network scale per PoP. We’re always rotating through our legacy hardware and updating it to the next generation. We’re tactically addressing specific countries where we might see room for performance improvement, where we can augment specific capacity based on customer wins, or where new traffic shows up.
Frank Orozco: We think of it like painting the Golden Gate Bridge: it never stops. Once you finish painting to one end, it’s time to repaint back to the other. It’s the same for the hardware that’s in our data centers, as well as our data center architecture. We are on Gen 7 of our hardware specification, but we’re already looking at Gen 8. The goal is not just scaling out our global footprint from a data center perspective, but scaling up the amount of throughput and connections we can handle on a per server level.
Q: What’s on the roadmap for Edgecast CDN security updates?
Ted Middleton: We’re making continued investments in our whole portfolio of web security offerings. One of the points of feedback we’ve gotten on our our Web Application Firewall (WAF) product was: “make it easier to use, configure and set up”; so we’ve got a bunch of things in the works to do just that and get up and running in a couple of clicks.
We continue to invest in things like Rate Limiting and bot detection and mitigation, so we’ve got enhancements coming out in both of those product areas. We’ve got some new user interface (UI) design rolling out in the security suite, so it’ll be cleaner and more up-to-date with our current cross-platform UI standards. We’re continuing to move toward the “all secure all the time” internet, focusing on features that make our provisioning of SSL and TLS websites faster and easier, and also more cost effective, so it’s simpler for customers to deploy their secured applications onto our environment. Those are the most obvious customer-facing things.
Q: What’s on the horizon for next year? Are there any trends you’re seeing or expecting to start responding to?
Ted Middleton: We’re focused on features and flexibility, making sure we’re keeping up with changes in the ways that customers are building applications. We’re putting an emphasis on EdgeControl, our new platform-as-a-service enablement that’s built to enable cloud-like behavior, real-time configuration operations, and extensive automation and dev-ops-friendly integration. “Build like the cloud, Deliver like the cloud” has been a mantra we’ve been using internally to rally multiple teams around this cause. This is a bit of a paradigm shift that is definitely gathering momentum in the CDN space right now.
Mobile and lossy networks are both key themes, as applications and brands and publishers continue to embrace richer content, more video, and rich media experiences – and doing those increasingly on mobile devices. We’re optimizing for all of those scenarios – including working across teams in Verizon to ensure that we can leverage inherent capabilities and new innovations that Verizon Wireless is rolling out. Keeping up with the curve on capabilities like LTE Multicast, 5G, and other evolution in the wireless network is important as traffic changes and scales.
Frank Orozco: In general, optimizing for video, and video on mobile in particular, is a key theme for CDNs as we continue to see the shift to over-the-top (OTT) delivery. We’ll continue to see the growth of video on mobile, and CDNs need to make sure they’re focusing on this key area and looking at standard quality metrics like the amount of video start failures or buffering instances. The ability to work with customers to get this data to fine tune their delivery profiles is key.
Q: What’s the biggest change for the future you’re most excited about?
Ted Middleton: We’re making a big push to move toward a more platform or cloud-like engagement model. CDNs, ironically, are one of the earliest examples of what have become the cloud: a massively distributed, shared-infrastructure platform. Modern cloud services do a very good job of modularizing and enabling developer- and API-centric engagement with their services. We’re going to do better at that as well.
IoT and telematics is a big area of investment for Verizon, and we’re working now to make sure the CDN is looking forward and anticipating emerging protocols and standards around IoT. One of the areas to emerge out of the IoT space is the digital signage initiative, where Verizon is selling a small device that can connect up to lots of different displays or inputs and allow people to put up interactive kiosks that can display rich media, stream video, broadcast live events, and create interactivity in public spaces. We’re working with Verizon to make sure the Edgecast CDN can provide benefits to those use cases in the future.