What Is Multi-CDN and How Does It Work as a Service

By Kimberly Semiglia

10 Min Read

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Kimberly Semiglia

    The file sizes of videos are big and only getting larger as the demand for higher resolutions increases. Having a fast and efficient way to transfer these large files is becoming increasingly important for streamers and broadcasters.

    Without a way to manage the increased internet traffic, viewers may suffer from the dreadful issue of buffering and lagging. Fortunately, there’s a proven way to address the problem effectively—using a multi-CDN as a service solution.

    Today, we’ll give you the rundown on what is multi-CDN, how it works, and how exactly a multi-CDN approach improves live streaming and video on demand. Then we’ll explain how to implement a multi-CDN strategy, and lastly, we’ll wrap up by sharing a simpler, alternate route to leverage the benefits of a multi-CDN setup.

    Let’s get started.

    Table of Contents

    • What is Multi-CDN and How Does It Work?
    • Reasons to Implement Multi-CDN Strategy For Your Website?
    • How to Implement Multi-CDN in 3 Steps
    • Alternative Way to Leverage Multi-CDN Solution
    • Conclusion

    What is Multi-CDN and How Does It Work?

    Before we share what is multi-CDN, let’s do a quick refresher on what a CDN is. A CDN is basically a network of geographically distributed servers around the world. The goal of CDNs are to speed up the delivery of videos or web content to end-users for a better user experience.

    Although CDNs in the market are powerful, there’s not a single CDN capable of guaranteeing 100% uptime. No CDN provider can also truthfully say they provide the best coverage to every single city in the world. Here is where the value of multi-CDNs come in.

    Multiple CDNs are a way to combine the strengths of different CDN vendors, while minimizing the weaknesses of each. A single CDN provider, for example, might have great coverage in Asia, while another CDN vendor might have great coverage all over the USA and Europe. When you use a multi-CDN service, you can route traffic to different CDNs in a way that makes the most sense when it comes to performance and availability.

    Ultimately, the benefit of using multiple CDN providers in the context of videos is to give your viewers globally the best possible viewing experience.

    Reasons to Implement Multi-CDN Strategy For Your Website?

    A multi-CDN solution is ideal if reaching a large global audience through your website and video content is important for you. If a video on your site starts to go viral, but something happens to your CDN, this could lead to many negative repercussions.

    This can result in your viewers experiencing major buffering and lagging issues and, worse, not being able to access your video at all. The effect of one negative event due to a server crash or CDN going down can have a domino effect on your business, revenue, and brand reputation.

    A CDN outage can happen with even the top content delivery networks. For example, Cloudflare, a very popular CDN, has previously  gone down for about 25 minutes.

    Pros and Cons to Using a Multi-CDN

    The pros generally outweigh the cons of using a multi-CDN if reaching an audience at a global scale is important for you. However, it is important to note that introducing more content delivery networks to your workflow will increase the complexity of management. With that said, let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of using a multi-CDN.

    Pros:

    • Avoid a single point of failure: Using multiple content delivery networks can ensure 100% availability. In the case of a content delivery network outage, the current CDN can be replaced with another CDN.
    • Performance benefits: Multiple CDNs means more servers and reduced latency. Lower latency and faster loading times mean less lagging and buffering.  The result is a higher-quality broadcast for both live streaming and video on demand. You can get away with high latency when a few seconds don’t make much of a difference, like when downloading a book, but these few seconds make a huge difference when live streaming.
    • Enhanced security: A common type of cyber attack is called DDoS, where basically bad actors try to overload a server or network to cause it to fail. Think of a traffic jam. In a setup with multiple CDN providers, if the servers from one CDN gets attacked, traffic can just be rerouted and “fall over” to the servers of another CDN.
    • Lower bandwidth costs: Different CDN providers offer cheaper rates in certain regions. When setting up a multi-CDN strategy, you can route to the cheaper option.
    • Scalability: With multiple CDNs, you can better handle traffic spikes or virality. By using a multi CDN service, there are more servers to distribute the load and to handle requests, so the chance that any one server will be overloaded and fail is practically nonexistent.
    • Reach remote areas: Generally, the closer a user is to a server, the lower the latency. Although data moves very fast today, it can’t travel faster than the speed of light. For that reason, distance will likely always play a role in video performance. Having strategic multiple CDN providers gives you more distributed edge servers, making it possible to deliver high-quality video experiences to more remote areas.

    Cons:

    • Need to pay extra attention to configurations: You need to ensure configurations are the same across all CDN providers. For example, in reference to simple multi-CDN load balancing, you want to make sure that if you blacklist European traffic on one CDN, you also blacklist it on others.
    • Measuring performance may take longer: With multi CDN providers comes multiple capture logs to sort through to measure performance.
    • Integration and training costs: Unless you have the technical knowledge to integrate a multi CDN strategy, you may have to hire experts or invest in a multi-CDN service solution that can help you manage multiple CDNs.
    • More strategic thinking required: Choosing how to allocate specific workloads and determining which content delivery network will serve which user or session based on whichever rules requires some technical know-how.

    Want to experiment Multi-CDN for your next live streams ? Try Dacast for 14 days and activate the Multi-CDN option. You will only pay for the option if you actually use it.

    For a flat fee of $49 per hour, if one content delivery system conveying your stream goes down, another content delivery system will automatically step up in its place, ensuring streaming outages are a thing of the past.

    Try Dacast with Multi-CDN

    How to Implement Multi-CDN in 3 Steps

    Now that you know the benefits of using a Multi-CDN let’s quickly explain the steps to implement a multi-CDN setup.

    1) Select the Right CDN Partners

    The right CDN provider will differ depending on your needs. We’ll guide you on different factors to consider in your search.

    The first thing to consider is to make sure the CDN provider you choose specializes in video. Some CDN providers don’t support live streaming at all.

    It’s also common for CDN providers to specialize in certain locations. In general, CDN performance is higher in major cities in the US and Europe because the concentration of edge servers in these areas tend to be high. That’s why if streaming to certain parts, especially live streaming to China, you need to be very strategic on who you choose.

    Another factor to consider is the number of servers. Many live streaming CDN solutions don’t have a huge distribution of edge servers. Akamai CDN is popular for those looking for a live streaming CDN for this reason.

    2) Choose a DNS Provider or Multi-CDN Management Solution

    A multi-CDN DNS provider or multi-CDN management solution can make managing multiple CDNs easier. For example, these solutions can help with configuration, engineering support, and integration support. Different solutions can also help with routing network traffic in the most efficient way possible using data and smart algorithms.

    3) Choose an Approach to Route Traffic

    When working with a DNS provider that doesn’t use advanced methods to route traffic, you’ll need to consider a few ways to distribute the load of traffic to deliver the best possible experience to your viewers. Here are common approaches:

    • Static DNS: Simple approach, but may require a manual, time-consuming effort if a CDN fails. Doesn’t consider cost or performance variables.
    • Managed DNS: Similar to static approach, but automates the manual aspect.
    • Weighted Round Robin: A multi-CDN load balancing approach where you can designate how often each of your CDNs receives traffic. (e.g., CDN A: 60% of traffic, CDN B-40%)
    • Geo-location: Choose which CDN gets traffic from specific countries or states. You can even get as granular as which province.
    • Variable-Driven: Most complex approach, but takes into account many factors when deciding which CDN to route requests to.

    Easy Way to Leverage Multi-CDN Solution

    Shopping for CDNs requires a lot of due diligence. An alternative to setting up and working with a multi-CDN architecture is to use an online video platform, like Dacast, and take advantage of their existing partnerships with top CDNs.

    For example, here at Dacast, we offer a multi-CDN solution for a straightforward flat fee of $49 per hour. Easily activate multi-CDNs for your most important streams and eliminate the risk of missed opportunities. We have an existing partnership with Limelight so that video streamers don’t have to spend so much time on the technical stuff. By taking this route, you’ll also no longer need to worry about having to negotiate prices with multiple CDN providers.

    Conclusion

    A multi-CDN solution improves live streaming and video on demand by enhancing the experience for your viewers around the world. More specifically, it reduces latency, improves availability, and gives you added security. Using a multi-CDN approach is a proven way to respond to the increase in the size of video files and the increasing popularity of video.

    If you want a simpler way to access multi-CDN explicitly for video or streaming content, consider an online video hosting platform like Dacast and take advantage of their existing partnerships with multiple CDNs.

    Experience the power of multi-CDNs for yourself with Dacast’s 14-day free trial.

    Try Dacast with Multi-CDN

    Do you plan to implement Multi-CDN for your business? We’d love to know in the comments below!

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    Kimberly Semiglia

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