Writers Being Led Astray About CDNs, Wall Street Journal The Latest

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published a blog post entitled "Moving Bits through Private Pipes" that talks about content delivery networks and describes how video is delivered. The problem is that like many writers covering the topic, they only get their info from vendors and assume what the vendors are telling them is true. Or they use phrases and words in the post without really knowing how they tie into the technology and don’t challenge any of the quotes they get from analysts.

The author says that, "Multimedia communication — particularly video — has caused a strain on public networks, degrading the quality, so privatized networks have become more attractive over the last few years." Where’s proof that the public networks are under any "strain"? And what CDNs have "privatized" networks? CDNs do not have "private" networks. They have private cross-connects and things like private peering, but the networks themselves are not "private". They are all delivering content over the Internet, which is public. Yes, some CDNs own the pipes, but the content to the end user is not being delivered from a "private" network.

Berge Avayzian, an analyst with the Yankee Group is quoted in the article as saying, "Video is a huge game changer but its big and bulky, so sending video files over traditional Internet pipes is flawed." What are "traditional internet pipes"? Are there any internet pipes that are un-traditional? And what does Berge classify as being the flaw? The CDN space for video this year alone is north of $400 million, so the "flaw" does not seem to be stopping the market from growing or vendors from growing revenue.

The author of the blog goes on to quote Tata over the recently announced relationship with BitGravity but the statements don’t make any sense. Tata is quoted as saying that "BitGravity’s network is designed specifically to handle video," as if they are the only one. Limelight’s network was specifically built to handle video from the very first day they launched, years before BitGravity. Tata is also quoted as saying, "The internet as we know is changing, it’s much more of multi-media, communications medium now. Outdated hardware and infrastructure can’t handle that." Who has outdated hardware and infrastructure?

BitGravity and others need to stop coming to the market and saying their content delivery networks are "next-generation" and as a result, Akamai, Limelight and everyone else must be using old, outdated hardware and have a legacy network. What do you think guys like Akamai and Limelight are spending all these CAPEX dollars on? They are not running outdated hardware and their size of their CDN revenue shows that their networks are not outdated. And what about someone like Level 3 who has built out their network in the past 18 months? Does that mean that are using all outdated gear also?

The idea that just because a CDN has been around for more than a few years they are somehow falling behind in being able to deliver content is not accurate. I’d say the opposite. They have more real-world experience building out their network to deliver video and have an advantage over any new CDN who simply does not have the hands-on experience, the volume of traffic or the number of customers that a well-established CDN has.

BitGravity, it’s not in your best interest, or the industry’s for that matter, to keep trying to portray every other CDN as outdated. If you want the industry to seriously consider your network to be some sort of "next-generation", then put on your website a white paper explaining how it is technically different, with technical details. Because without details, all you are giving us is marketing speak. Looking at the technical page on BitGravity’s website gives us no description whatsoever of the technology.

For Bobby White who wrote the article on the WSJ, I feel for him. If CDN is not a topic he tracks and covers on a regular basis, it is very hard for him or any other author to get the straight details, minus marketing speak from many of those in the CDN market. I don’t fault someone like Bobby for quality of the blog post he wrote, I fault vendors and analysts in the market who don’t take the time to truly explain the business, the technology or the terms in our industry to a writer who is trying to cover our market.