Apple appears to have built its own content-delivery network

Apple appears to have built its own content-delivery network

Summary: It looks like that Apple wants to "hand-deliver" its software updates and audio and video content over the Internet to your door via its own content-delivery network.

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TOPICS: Networking, Apple
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Apple isn't saying anything, but it certainly looks like they're running their own content delivery network. (Image: CNET)

As usual, Apple has nothing to say about its latest operation: the creation of a content-delivery network (CDN) for its software updates and audio and video content. Dan Rayburn, executive VP for StreamingMedia and Principal Analyst for the research firm, Frost & Sullivan, make a compelling, fact-based argument that Apple is already operating its own CDN.

According to Rayburn's traceroute Internet analysis, "Apple’s CDN has gone live in the U.S. and Europe and the company is now delivering some of their own content, directly to consumers. In addition, Apple has interconnect deals in place with multiple ISPs, including Comcast and others, and has paid to get direct access to their networks."

As a former network administrator, I did my own tests and I came up with similar results. Apple does have a CDN and they are using it.

Rayburn looked further and ISPs told him, "Apple has put a massive amount of capacity in place, with many saying that Apple has more than 10x the capacity they are using today, all ready to go. With Apple planning to release the beta version of their next desktop OS today, Yosemite (10.10), and with iOS 8 expected to come out this fall, Apple’s putting in place a lot of capacity to support upcoming software releases." 

So, why would Apple, which is certainly not known as an Internet power, want to build out its own CDN? Rayburn suggests it's because "Apple already controls the hardware, the OS (iOS/OS X) as well as the iTunes/App store platforms. Right now they control the entire customer experience, except for the way content is delivered to their devices, and they are quickly working to change that. While Apple doesn’t own the last mile, paying to connect directly to it (in some places) and delivering content from their own servers allows them much more control over the user experience, especially for cloud based services."

That makes perfect sense to me.

I'd add that, with all the warring going on between Netflix, the biggest by far of all the Internet video providers, and last-mile ISPs including Verizon, Apple wants a strong position in dealing with the last mile ISPs by presenting them with its own ready-to-run CDN technologies.

Apple users should be the winners. They'll never be aware of the CDNs that their software, movies, and TV shows travel over to get to them, but they may notice that Apple content tends to arrive with less trouble than programs and videos from other providers.

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Topics: Networking, Apple

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14 comments
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  • Smart move

    I wonder if google will follow suit?
    Low_tech
    • I would be surprised if Google doesn't do this.

      Especially in KS and other areas where Google Fiber exists. TAC is a huge cost to Google and decreasing that could save billions.
      Bruizer
    • Apple is following in this case

      Google has the second largest CDN already, after Akamai.

      In regions where there is no Netflix, Google caches usually deliver the biggest portion of internet traffic (about 40%), mostly in the form of Youtube. A lot of other content is also served out of the caches (maps, image search, Google Play content etc.).

      So no, Google will not be following suit.

      Go browse peeringdb if you don't believe me.
      buchanmilne
  • they still have to pay the gatekeeper for the last mile

    Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, etc. Own the last mile and then some. Apple will have the same issue as Netflix and will have to pay the gatekeepers their toll.

    "Apple has interconnect deals in place with multiple ISPs, including Comcast and others, and has paid to get direct access to their networks."

    Whenever they feel like it they will pop up and demand: Answer me affirmatively theses questions three or ye shall not pass. Will you give me another 10% of your revenue? will you pay me extra fees without question? Will you keep your mouth shut about this deal?
    greywolf7
    • Last mile

      Sounds like Apple has already arranged for that last mile ... and if they didn't get long term commitments for their money, they're not negotiating like Apple.

      Ever since Apple's stopping being that poor illegitimate second cousin, they done a *lot* of planning ahead and buying while the prices and demand were low.
      varase
  • Netflix is just as guilty as Comcast, Verizon, AT&T....

    "Understanding is a three edged sword" -Kosh
    Bruizer
    • Netflix is not an ISP.

      The other three are.

      Thus Netflix can't be guilty of the same thing the others are.
      jessepollard
  • Does it run on Azure...

    ...like iCloud?
    mattyvx
    • You know what a CDN is, right?

      By definition, no. A CDN is an on-prem server farm at ISPs, so the data can go right through the pipe.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
  • Beats?

    Shurely this is just a network for streaming using the Beats acquisition?

    And US-centric again - man I know the US is big, but there is a whole world out there that Apple would need to monetise
    Lord Minty
    • No

      They wouldn't make an investment like that and only do one thing through it; the ultimate in wastefulness.

      And no, it isn't US only. From the article:

      " Apple’s CDN has gone live in the U.S. and Europe"
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
  • Not a big mystery

    The only reason for doing that is to deliver streaming video. They're pretty desperate to diversify away from just selling yet another iPhone model.
    Buster Friendly
    • You know they do streaming video already, right?

      They have for years. The Apple TV has minimal storage space and has been all-streaming for years, and iOS7 introduced streaming movies to iPad and iPhone.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
      • Not How I See It

        The streaming that Apple TV does isn't that much. The biggest bandwidth user is far and away Netflix. That could change with the release of an Apple TV network. Supposedly Apple has been in talks with companies like Time Warner to release content directly on Apple TV, sort of like a set top box. Apple wants to change the way we experience tv today and if that happens, Apple could become the new content delivery king.
        Seabiscuit88