The CDN market has both steadily grown and evolved over the past twenty years, but the core CDN function continues to be to deploy a network of distributed caches in order to “move the content closer to the user.” As content has also evolved to become much richer and personalized, advanced techniques such as front-end optimization (FEO) and dynamic site acceleration (DSA) have been added to deal with these demands. In recent years, attempts have been made to adapt these techniques to address the rapid shift to mobile access, with many vendors looking to solve the mobile challenge in the market. Despite these attempts, mobile web access performance remains significantly slower than wired access.
CDNs continue to focus on getting content to the edge as quickly as possible, while also relying on low latency, low packet loss inside the last mile, which is typically limited to wired connections. In the U.S. for example, web publishers will pay a traditional CDN to mitigate 70 milliseconds of coast-to-coast latency, but the mobile last mile is anything but low latency. It is both high and highly variable and can range from 30 ms to 300 ms, even in a 4G/LTE network. Rev Software, a two-year old start up has just emerged with a new service it calls, m.cdn to deal with this challenge.
The founding team at Rev has been building high performance network systems, both wired and wireless for many years at companies such as FastSoft, Juniper Networks, Cisco Systems, Intel and others. The company has raised $4M in private funding with the goal of building a new system that was able to deal with the many variables that exist for mobile users at both the network and device level. Their result is a policy-based system that is able to both detect and respond to rapidly changing conditions in real-time.
Rev says their system is able to uniquely optimize every end-user request at both the content and network levels. When a session request arrives, a learning machine examines historic real user measurement (RUM) data collected from previous sessions and also a real-time feedback loop that runs continuously. Key session parameters are then extracted, which inform the policy controller how to dynamically set the content and network optimization resources, which are then implemented by an on-the-fly configurator. Once the content is optimized, the network optimizer, which provides the bulk of the performance benefits, adaptively accelerates content delivery over the last mile. Accelerated last mile delivery can be done asymmetrically (no changes needed to receiving end) to both browsers and mobile apps as well as symmetrically to apps via a mobile SDK.
Traditional CDNs primarily deliver content from the web publisher/content owner, however, a growing amount of web content comes from third-party sites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and various ad servers. For some sites, more than half of the content comes from third-party sites. In order to ensure that this third-party content receives the benefit of last mile acceleration, the Rev system sets up a device proxy at the edge that is able to redirect this content and accelerate the delivery of it as well.
The company says that due to the highly complex nature of its technology, a decision was made to deliver that technology in a “CDN form factor” in order to abstract that complexity from its customers. To accomplish this, a veteran of the CDN industry was recruited and key CDN features were added including caching, instant purge, DSA, WAF/DDoS, SSL, etc. and deployed over a 22 PoP global network. Rev has also built a very robust user interface portal, which includes: real-time RUM reporting, self-configuration, support for Google analytics, and integrated synthetic testing.
Another way Rev says they are unique is in the way it makes its service available to customers. Unlike its CDN competitors, who attempt to displace an incumbent, Rev can be configured as an overlay network in order to provide dynamic last mile acceleration for just the mobile users. Of course, for those companies that prefer, Rev can provide the standard CDN functions as well and the onboarding process for Rev’s m.cdn service is consistent with that of existing CDNs.
Over the past few years, a number of CDN vendors have started offering services aimed at improving mobile performance. Rev says that what truly makes them different is the fact that they are a “networking technology” company that is addressing the mobile last mile latency at the network level. They claim to be providing up to 2X increase in end-to-end mobile performance for both mobile browsers and apps, when compared to the customer’s existing solution. It will be interesting to see if actual customers agree and how the incumbents respond. Rev came out of beta in October and are now in general availability and currently have around 20 customers.