Cloud CDN can have multiple meanings. For example, several CDN providers use this phrase as part of a product name. This article will discuss its broader meaning: a CDN that is part of the cloud.
CDN stands for Content Delivery Network. A CDN is a geographically distributed network of PoPs (Points of Presence) that will deliver content based on location. (If you are not familiar with CDNs, see What is CDN? and Why should you use a CDN?)
Cloud refers to resources (compute, storage, and network) that are available as web services. There are many cloud providers, but the industry is dominated by the Big Three: AWS (Amazon Web Services), GCP (Google Cloud Platform), and Microsoft Azure.
Cloud providers offer CDNs as part of their platforms. The individual product names vary for each vendor, but collectively, they are described as cloud CDNs. The most notable cloud CDNs come from the Big Three: Amazon CloudFront (from AWS), Cloud CDN (from GCP), and Content Delivery Network (from Azure).
Cloud CDNs are not the only CDNs available on the market today. Another major category is telco CDNs. Telco firms own large amounts of physical telecommunication infrastructure; they have taken advantage of this to create large content delivery platforms.
Some telco CDNs have very attractive pricing, compared to cloud CDNs. This is because some cloud CDN providers actually lease part of their infrastructure from a telco. Therefore, telco CDNs can sometimes offer lower pricing structures than a cloud CDN.
Nevertheless, cloud CDNs (especially those from the Big Three) offer some compelling advantages.
Benefits of Cloud CDNs
Low latency and high transfer speeds. As an industry, cloud services are intensively competitive. CDNs are meant to increase the speed at which content is delivered. Thus, cloud providers are continually trying to improve the speed of their CDNs and outperform their competitors.
Massive investment. Over the last few years, the Big Three alone have invested more than $75 billion into their infrastructures.
Broader infrastructure. Each telco owns or controls a limited subset of global infrastructure. (This is why cellphone network coverage varies by provider. Two people in the same location using different phone companies can often receive very different signal strengths.) But cloud CDNs have access not only to their own infrastructure, but they can also fill in their gaps by leasing additional infrastructure from a variety of telcos.
Different emphasis. Telco CDNs are offered by companies with large investments in, and large commitments to, physical infrastructure. Conversely, cloud CDN providers understand that infrastructure is a commodity. Their focus is purely on their customers, and supplying the features and benefits that their customers need.
Developer friendly. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft all offer technologically sophisticated products. All three place heavy emphasis on making this sophistication readily available to developers.
Continual improvement. The Big Three are constantly expanding their product lines, and are always rolling out new features.
Easy deployment. For most cloud providers, customers can start using their cloud CDNs with just a few clicks in a management console.
Potential savings. Some providers offer price breaks for certain uses of their platforms. For example, AWS users do not pay for data transfer between Amazon CloudFront and certain AWS services (Amazon S3, Amazon EC2, and Elastic Load Balancing).
Full integration. Using a major cloud CDN means that the customer can easily benefit from the other products offered as part of the platform, which all work together. For example, some providers offer centralized monitoring; all activity across the entire cloud platform is consolidated and reported in one dashboard.
Better web security. Using a CDN can raise certain security issues. (For more information, see How does a CDN affect security?) However, many cloud providers offer native security products (e.g., WAF and/or DDoS protection) in their platforms. Furthermore, a cloud security platform such as Reblaze is fully integrated with the Big Three and many other cloud platforms, and offers robust and sophisticated threat detection that the native products do not provide.
Therefore, using a cloud CDN makes it easy to also include a powerful web security solution, which will detect and block web threats in the cloud before the traffic reaches the protected network.