The Internet today is a vital part of the global infrastructure. Like roads, railways, airports, and other inventions that link people, businesses, and countries, this worldwide virtual network is a critical part of modern-day life. With an expected 30 Billion connected devices by 2020 growing to 75 Billion in 2025, the underlying technologies that route traffic from source to destination are an essential component of the modern post-industrial world.
At its core, the Internet is effectively a vast interconnected network made up of millions of devices that route traffic. As this infrastructure has grown over the past three decades, there have been several innovative evolutions in networking technology that has increased the resiliency and efficiency of this vital network.
Content Delivery Networks – A Vital Part of the Internet Ecosystem
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) offers a variety of benefits to website operators and web application providers. It reduces page load times, decreases latency in video streaming, and lowers bandwidth consumption. A CDN also helps boost Search Engine Optimization (SEO), provides scalability, and ultimately delivers a superior experience to end-users. However, as the Internet’s reach has increased exponentially, CDNs also play a vital role in the active routing of traffic. By servicing web requests from the closest logical node, these crucial internetworking components improve the overall efficiency of the entire Internet.
Traditionally, CDNs have used the mechanisms of the Domain Name System (DNS) to route web requests to the closest node. For example, if a user initiates a web request from their location in the United Kingdom, a DNS request is made to ascertain the IP address of the destination site or service. The DNS server servicing the user replies with the relevant IP address, and the user’s browser or app then connects to the destination server. If the site or service leverages a CDN, the DNS server responds with the closest IP to the user’s location in the UK. If another user in Japan makes the same request, the DNS service responds with the closest IP address to that user’s location. However, DNS alone may not be sufficient to meet the performance needs of the modern web. Innovations in networking technologies in combination with DNS, can help CDN operators improve the level of service they offer their end-users and customers.
The Rise of Software-Defined Networking
As business and society continue to harness the power of technology to automate, communicate, and find solutions to everyday challenges, being able to respond rapidly to changing requirements is vital. Software-Defined Networking (SDN) is a networking platform that enables network engineers and system administrators to meet the growing need for agility. In essence, SDN is a combination of a variety of networking technologies created to increase the flexibility of modern networks.
In essence, Software-Defined Networking centralizes the control of a network. It achieves this flexible state by partitioning the control logic of the platform to off-device computing resources. All SDNs have three primary components.
- Controllers hold the intelligence of the network and offer a centralized view of the entire network.
- Southbound APIs relay information and instructions to networking components such as routers and switches below the controller domain.
- Northbound APIs communicate with the applications and business logic above the networking layer.
There are numerous business benefits to deploying a Software-Defined Networking architecture. Enabling networking engineers and system administrators to issue programmatic instructions to the network allows for greater flexibility and efficiency. Centralized management allows for greater control enabling business agility unlocking cost savings in both capital and operational expenditure. However, it is SDNs ability to abstract the control layer from the physical layer of a network that offers the most significant benefit. As technology has moved into the virtual and cloud computing domains, SDN gives organizations the capability to respond to change rapidly, and it is this feature that Artificial Intelligence (AI) can leverage to improve the performance and efficiency of Content Delivery Networks.
Artificial Intelligence in Modern Networks
While Artificial Intelligence has always been considered the technology of the future, there is no doubt that recent advances in AI are already making a significant impact on our daily lives. From Google’s predictions that use anonymized location data to predict traffic patterns to Amazon’s suggestions on your next purchase, developers and engineers continue to create innovative new solutions that leverage this platform. With new AI creations disrupting every industry from manufacturing to retail, the lessons learned from other sectors can be leveraged to streamline and optimize the way services route traffic across the Internet.
By leveraging real-time operational data, Software-Defined Networks can learn to self-manage the operational aspects of their configuration with the help of machine learning and artificial intelligence. An API-driven Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN), can utilize data from its application performance, security stack, and network infrastructure and use this information to make real-time autonomous decisions on routing traffic. Using an AI-driven routing model can increase the performance of a CDN significantly.
Typically, CDN operators gather operational data in log files. Using this information, they then create data sets that require complex log management solutions to filter, analyze, and eventually build the algorithms they use for routing traffic. In addition to building their routing algorithms, CDN operators also need to monitor their networks for performance bottlenecks and latency continuously. If an alert needs some form of remediation, the process to make this change needs to be executed manually. However, in a world where performance and agility are vital elements of online competitiveness, this process is not as efficient as it can be.
By leveraging Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, CDN operators can use this technology platform to make the adjustments they need in real-time. An AI-driven SD-CDN platform can analyze the log traffic, look for any anomalies, and then take the appropriate action without the need for human intervention. Not only does this intelligent autonomy increase the efficiency of the Content Delivery Network, but it also improves the experience of users connecting to this service. By leveraging the performance capabilities of a CDN, enhancing its routing and management with the implementation of Software Defined Networking, and utilizing AI to increase autonomy and efficiency, Artificial Intelligence can help improve the performance of your website or web application significantly.