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Apple appears to have built its own content-delivery network

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.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
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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