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Multi-CDN is Firmly Established; Edge Compute Has Yet to Take Hold

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To open last week's Content Delivery Summit, StackPath and Help Me Stream Research Foundation presented the findings of the 2021 Content Delivery & Edge Compute Trends survey. Over 300 industry leaders took the survey in April 2021 on topics ranging from CDN selection criteria to edge computing.

The findings from the survey, available now in the Content Delivery Summit YouTube channel, show both how fragmented the CDN market has become as well as how early the streaming industry is in terms of the adoption cycle of edge compute.

"To say the CDN market is highly fragmented is an understatement," said Tim Siglin, founding executive director, Help Me Stream Research Foundation. "While the survey offered respondents a chance to choose from 14 different CDNs on a response list, the 'other' category saw a total of 32 of CDNs written in by respondents."

When asked whether the continued CDN marketplace fragmentation was a surprise to StackPath, SVP of product Arash Marzban said it's a natural progression.

"This doesn't surprise us at all," said Marzban. "At the high end of the market, the discussion is always around multiple CDNs. But also delivery means a lot of different things to different people, so there are a number of growing use cases for CDN deployment."

The vast majority of survey respondents also used at least two CDNs, meaning that we're now firmly in a multi-CDN world. This also means that real-time measurements become table stakes, at least when it comes to load balancing and CDN switching.

Criteria for choosing a CDN varied, but the top choice for all respondents was performance, followed by the use of CDN services to deliver streaming video. Rounding out the top three choices was security.

When we drilled down further into the security question, respondents told us that content protection was far and away the top choice, followed by application protection—whether it be application shielding or component hardening—and then key sets of performance indicators, in a broader data & analytics category.

When looking at edge compute, survey respondents were asked to choose one of a series of stages along the implementation continuum. Stage 0 indicates no plans for edge compute, while Stage 3 indicates a respondent's organization has implemented edge compute in a production environment.

Over half of all respondents chose Stage 0, while about one-quarter said they were in pilot projects (Stage 2) or implementation (Stage 3).

"The number of responses to Stage 0 (no plans) should remind us that current edge compute offerings may not effectively educate on the benefits of edge computing," said Siglin. "But when someone's at Stage 2 or 3 (pilot projects or implementations) their criteria in choosing a CDN shifts."

Siglin also noted that those respondents who have implemented edge computing are also more open to the idea of an Open CDN standards-based "build your own" approach. A lack of expertise, though, hinders implementation of both Open CDN delivery as well as several security features that respondents said they were interested in implementing, from RASP to SASE.

The survey was hosted by Streaming Media and Unisphere Research and crafted by Help Me Stream Research Foundation's Tim Siglin. A copy of the PowerPoint slides  presented at Content Delivery Summit 2021 are available for download here.

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