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The Many Meanings of E-CDN: Viewing the Options

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Cedexis, a company better known for their Radar service, which the company says offers a truly objective and realistic view of CDN performance via crowd-sourced measurement data on content delivery performance, shared several insights from measurements on hundreds of leading companies and service providers. According to Robert Malnati, Cedexis’ vice president of marketing and business development, hybrid solutions often present the best balance, according to data the company has gathered from hundreds of millions of real end users each day.

“The first best practice may sound the simplest,” Malnati says. “Know your audience, where are they, in what volumes, with what usage patterns. All will affect the costs of a private CDN deployment.”

Cedexis customers use the data gathered from end users to confirm service level agreement (SLA) performance objectively while also compare their CDN’s performance to other CDNs in the Radar community. But they also use the data to consider cloud delivery options and the comparative delivery rates and costs of clouds versus CDNs.

“Hybrid solutions are usually best,” Malnati says, “allowing an enterprise to deploy caches of content closest to concentrations of end users while using public CDN partner to establish reach to more far flung members of your audience.”

Malnati explains by saying, “Hybrids allows optimization of content delivery by leveraging the relative benefits of each of two options. CDNs are best for widely (globally) distributing files, to host that content as close to end users as possible to speed delivery. Yet private cache servers are more cost effective, include bandwidth transfer, and are therefore cheaper than CDN for serving an area close to the hosting data center.”

Malnati said another best practice that’s often overlooked is to use content types to determine the type of cloud or hybrid solution.

“Know your content,” Malnati says. “Static content is much more easily cached to improve end user experience by having content closer to the audience. Highly personalized, dynamic websites, and applications are not cacheable.”

Just as we were wrapping up this article, Cedexis announced that it had hired a new CEO. Scott Grout joined Cedexis publicly traded RadiSys, a company with a history in embedded communications infrastructure products, so he knows a thing or two about the cloud versus hybrid debate.

“At Cedexis we see a wide range of enterprise content delivery optimization strategies, including hybrid CDN and cloud architectures,” Grout says. “As cloud resources become pervasive around the globe, enterprises are improving end user experience, at lower costs. One way to do this is through innovative real-time visibility and data driven load balancing solutions that combine the global reach of CDNs with the local reach and cost effectiveness of cloud.”

Where Do We Go From Here?

The debate over cloud vs. in-house vs. hybrid may continue to dominate infrastructure thinking for a number of enterprises throughout 2014, but Kontiki’s Nunes says that we need to remember the enterprise customer has very discrete needs when it comes to live events.

To better understand this point, Nunes provided several key findings from the just-closed 2014 Kontiki-Melcrum survey, tentatively titled “Extending Business-Critical All-employee Engagement,” which should be available in full by the time this article is published. The survey gauges enterprise communications and IT managers’ experience with live video events and Nunes says a key survey question centered on success criteria for all-employee communications.

“One of the primary questions we asked,” Nunes says, “was this: ‘What are the critical success factors in determining which communication means to use in your initial event?’ ”

The top three responses for most important critical success factors were high engagement, reach, and ease of use (Table 1).

When asked to rank critical success factors after the initial event, the top three responses were the same (high engagement, reach, and ease of use) as those identified for the initial event. This reinforces the notion that it’s crucial to both reduce barriers to all-employee participation and keep your audience’s attention. The most significant change was that after the initial event, time to execute became a higher priority, becoming the fourth most critical success factor (Table 2).

Finally, Nunes said that Kontiki and Melcrum asked respondents, which totaled 675 enterprise communicators, what made -- or would make -- the biggest impact when extending and influencing employee engagement beyond the initial all-employee event?

The top two answers say more about corporate culture than video delivery, with follow-on leadership communication events topping the list and improved culture/working environment a close second. Selections for “highly iterative communication process and engagement” as well as “incorporating enterprise social tools for measurement, feedback and influence” emphasize comprehension as the next most important factor behind culture (Table 3).

“Respondents said that incorporating video throughout the entire process and utilizing live and on demand video webcasting in follow-on leadership events, when combined, was the third area of importance,” Nunes says, noting that a total of 11 percent of respondents chose those answers from a list of possible options. “These results align with the value of video across the entire organization and the need to expand its usage over time.”

One final area that bears examination, which is covered in part in this month’s Streams of Thought column, is the question of content overload. Both education and enterprise share the same limitation: there’s too much content to wade through.

An enterprising E-CDN provider, whether cloud or hybrid, could provide robust indexing tools, combining OCR with voice-to-text tools, adding the ability to both enhance general searching and also offer time compression as a key service. The indexing tools have been out there for more than a decade, but the post-processing has been daunting and expensive. Newer cloud-based service models mitigate processing costs, and there’s enough content to use to hone algorithms for better content indexing.

Conclusion

For the enterprise communications or IT manager, the task of delivering the CEO’s all-hands meeting live, without a hitch, is daunting enough. Yet in the age of YouTube and Netflix, the average employee expects not only to be able to watch this content at any time, but also at any location and -- to a lesser extent, perhaps -- on any device close at hand.

Within these parameters lies the ongoing discussion of how to best approach enterprise content delivery. Whether it’s an internal E-CDN, or a cloud-only solution that can be rapidly deployed, or the more pragmatic hybrid internal/cloud approach, corporate communications in 2014 is experiencing a surge in both live and on-demand viewing levels. The key to striking the right balance is knowing the audience, including their location and consumption device of choice, and knowing how to best cache static and dynamic content for the most cost-effective delivery to all enterprise employees and key stakeholders.

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