For companies with substantial CDN infrastructure, incremental improvements to their CDN’s speed, capacity, and reliability make a big difference. Unlike the consumer environment where buying an all-new setup is a simple way to boost performance, the enterprise world needs to carefully consider scale, costs, and balancing the hardware with the throughput requirements. In this environment, every decision matters. This includes the components you choose for your CDN servers, especially the type of storage drives you use.

For most of us, stopping by your local Best Buy and picking up the best SSD is enough. But for organizations like Netflix, who operate at scale, choosing an enterprise-grade SSD is a little more complicated.

Storage administrators need to consider metrics like throughput, IOPS, latency, and the amount of RAM to ensure that their storage is custom-built to meet the needs of the demanding streaming environment. Let’s look at these three principal metrics.

1. Throughput and IOPS Are Key to Speedy Delivery

Throughput measures how fast your storage drives can read and write data. Typically, this is measured in megabytes per second and is one of the most important metrics when it comes to speed.

While both read and write speeds affect performance, your drive’s read speeds matter more in the context of a CDN. That’s because your servers spend more time serving data to users than adding new content to the server.

While the specs on your drive may claim to reach certain speeds, you must factor in other variables, like the type of application, file size, and how many users are accessing the server at one time. The metric that matters here is called IOPS, and this measures the amount of read/write operations your storage device can do every second. In other words, it measures how well your storage can handle heavy usage, which is the most likely use case for CDN servers.

2. Low Latency Equals Better Service

Imagine for a moment that you’re at the DMV. What comes to mind? Long lines and even longer waits, right? As a content provider, this is definitely not the image you want coming to your users’ minds when they think of using your service.

To provide customers with the best experience, organizations should look for drives with low latency. On spinning drives, latency is measured in two ways: rotational latency and seek time. Rotational latency is the time it takes the disk to bring the right sector under the read/write head. For an SSD, latency is measured by the milliseconds it takes to retrieve data. In both cases, the less time it takes to retrieve the data, the better.
Picture of computer RAM, or memory, installed on the motherboard.

Another critical component of CDN speed and reliability is the amount of RAM you have in your servers. RAM can be compared to your short-term memory. While your brain can hold an immense amount of data, you’re only able to focus fully on one task at a time.

Similarly, your servers can hold a lot of data, but to effectively load applications and serve up content efficiently, they need to have enough RAM. It’s important to have RAM that is both high speed and high capacity. For example, in a typical modern laptop, you may have 8-16 gigabytes of reasonably fast RAM. But, in a CDN server, you could have hundreds or even thousands of gigabytes of high-speed RAM. This is necessary because your server needs to do the work of hundreds of computers and perform that work so that it’s not noticed by the user.

We’re Just Scratching the Surface of Your CDN Server Build

To find the right storage to support the needs of your CDN, you need to determine the main service your server will perform. Then you can look at which storage metrics are most important for the job to be done. In the case of the streaming provider, the goal is performance and scale, which means they are trying to find the best combination of speed and cost.

But, the requirements of your CDN may be different, and there are other variables to consider like global product certifications when sourcing the right products for your organization especially if you are going to deploy your CDN hardware internationally. If you want help building your CDN supply chain for price/performance optimized CDN hardware talk to one of our experts today.


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