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The CDN Is Dead, Long Live The GDN*

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*GDN - Global Data Network

Note - there is an interactive code tutorial at the bottom of the post that shows you how a CDN model can be applied to databases for serving data globally like CDNs serve static content.

Content Delivery Networks or CDNs have received a lot of attention in the last few years, with the emergence of newer and richer feature capabilities and features. Companies like Fastly and CloudFlare have entered the market with a focus on helping developers leverage the power of edge computing and hyper-locality to users by caching static content close to where it is being used.

That said, CDNs cannot do much for app and API developers, because while today’s apps are bootstrapped with static content from a CDN, everything they do once loaded involves backhauling dynamic data requests to and from a cloud database hundreds of miles and thousands of milliseconds away. Today’s web services, APIs and applications are required to be highly responsive and always online. To achieve low latency and high availability, instances of these applications need to be deployed in data centers that are close to their users. Applications need to elastically respond in real time to large changes in usage at peak hours, store ever increasing volumes of data, and make this data available to users in milliseconds. We need data systems that store data at the edge, at distances that are milliseconds away from users and devices.

We should be able to think of data — in the cloud or at the edge — as part of a single global system. In short, our data infrastructure should give us data that can be accessed where, when, and by whom we want with minimal latency and effort. This is a natural CDN model, but current CDN providers have not delivered the ability to exploit dynamic edge interactions.

Static content distribution is simple, with non mutable content assets replicating to CDN PoPs. Dynamic content, such as data stored in databases requires different replication and consistency guarantees. In a nutshell, this is the edge distributed data problem - and the answer to this problem is a Global Data Network or GDN.

Performance and Availability are Critical

For computers & networks, distance is a performance killer. If the images of a website are stored locally, but the infrastructure serving dynamic portions of a user experience are extremely remote, the entire user experience suffers - regardless of how quickly a CDN can serve the static portions of content. This is the fundamental reason we use CDNs and stateless function services at the edge wherever we can.

For a database, availability is also a crucial factor. Traditional cloud approaches using a centralized database create single points of failure and significant risk for the business. A failure means lost revenue, damaged reputation, and of course remediation. Depending on the business, every hour of outage can cost millions.

Creating a Global Data Network (GDN)

One of the biggest issues in using dynamic application data at the edge is the footprint required to maintain hyper-locality to users. Most modern databases and dynamic data backends work well in a single datacenter, but placing the data closer to users requires massive, global distribution. Maintaining consistency across these regions is one of the most challenging aspects of designing distributed applications. Eventual consistency can be attained, but in limited regions with data taking as long as 10 seconds to reach consistency. This creates an enormous exposure to conflicts and severely limits performance. This is why there is so much interest in Conflict Free Replicated Data Types (CRDTs).

A CDN for Stateful Application Data – Macrometa’s GDN and Fast Data Platform

Most research on CRDTs currently is focused on data types. What a developer needs is not individual data types but regular database and query languages with CRDT technology transparently managed underneath.

Macrometa’s GDN and Fast Data platform pushes the boundaries of what databases are using cutting edge technologies like CRDTs and provides a higher level abstraction to developers i.e., a multi-model (key-value, doc, graph, streams) database along with a query layer (C8QL) to handle both data-at-rest and data-in-motion use cases. For those interested in learning further the technology parts, you can read more about it here - Macrometa Technology Overview.

Best way to understand a technology is to just try it. At least that is how Dad did it, America does it and how we do it. So for folks who are interested, We strongly recommend that you get a cup of strong coffee and get a free developer account on Macrometa GDN and Fast Data platform here.

Can your CDN do this? A quick interactive demo of Macrometa's GDN

Macrometa provides a geo distributed platform that delivers a real-time noSQL streaming database in 25 global PoPs. The code sample below shows how data can be stored globally across these regions with strong consistency and high performance. Macrometa provides a free developer account with access to 4 regions but that should be sufficient as the platform behavior is same whether it is on 4 regions or on 25 regions. Following is a small interactive program that you can use to play around with it as a starting point.

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