The Internet has emerged as one of the most powerful ways for businesses and consumers to communicate and learn. Its global reach, accessibility and speed have opened doors to areas of knowledge that in the past were available only to a privileged few. With the emergence of popular video-streaming services that deliver Internet video to the TV and other devices, content delivery networks (CDNs) have prevailed as a dominant method to deliver such content. However, the popularity of video and other IP-based multimedia is causing increased traffic for CDNs.

As consumers continue to demand greater amounts of high-quality content over the Internet, service providers (SPs) are finding it difficult to increase revenues while operating efficiently and containing costs. This is due mainly to two things: over-the-top (OTT) content (various forms of media) providers have outsourced the delivery of content to pure-play CDN companies, and traffic growth is increasing network build-out and maintenance costs for service providers (SPs). In response to these challenges, many SPs have begun to utilize CDNs within their own networks. Let’s take a look at some CDN growth trends from Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (VNI):

Global Quick Trends


  • Globally, 57% of all Internet traffic will cross CDNs by 2018, up from 36% in 2013.
  • It’s also forecasted that 67% of all Internet video traffic will cross CDNs by 2018, up from 53% in 2013.
  • In the United States, 88% of all Internet traffic will cross CDNs by 2018, up from 61% in 2013.
  • In Western Europe, 71% of all Internet traffic will cross content delivery networks by 2018, up from 55% in 2013.

CDN Traffic Growth Creates New Revenue Opportunities

To enable content delivery to customers over the Internet, OTT content providers such as BBC, Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube have either outsourced video delivery to pure-play CDN companies including Akamai and Limelight Networks, or have built distributed content-hosting infrastructures across the Internet. The mapping system in Akamai combines the network topology information with live network statistics – such as traceroute data – to provide a detailed, dynamic view of network structure and quality measures for different mappings.

This approach allows them to cache popular video assets and stream the video to end users, reducing server, hosting, bandwidth, and operating costs while providing an acceptable end-user experience. The initial focus has been to reduce content-transport costs and improve the quality of content delivery to their own customers. Over time, individual SPs started offering CDN services to OTT content providers as a way to earn extra income from the content flowing over their networks. These have been used to deliver the SPs’ own content as well as to deal with increased traffic from OTT content providers. Caching content in a CDN and distributing the CDN nodes deeply into the network can potentially yield significant network cost savings for SPs by offloading transit and peering connections, IP core networks, and potentially parts of their aggregation networks.

For example, one company reported that up to 30 percent of the traffic on its network is cacheable (e.g., OTT content). This means that deploying an effective caching solution could translate into substantial network savings. From an OTT perspective, working with SPs rather than pure-play CDN companies allows them to deliver a better content experience to customers since the caches are closer to end users. In addition, SPs are able to give content providers additional information from their networks about consumers’ behavior and preferences, allowing them to target and serve their customers more effectively.

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Ying Shen

No Longer with Cisco