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The Trend in Multi-CDN to Meet Digital Demands

Increased adoption of CDN technology, and the trend towards multiple CDN deployments, reflects a fundamental change in how businesses are delivering goods and services. It’s a shift from “atoms to bits” — physical products to digitally-delivered goods and services. Just as manufacturing firms once built new factories and plants to meet demand, digital businesses are doing this with their Internet infrastructure.

Following up on research we shared in June on CDN adoption overall, we looked this time at the trend of multiple CDN deployments. Working again with our partner Datanyze, which provided us the raw data for analysis, we looked at the top 100,000 websites ranked by traffic, according Alexa.

Since our last look at the CDN market in June, we’ve seen an increase in the number of domains associated with multiple CDNs; as of the end of Q3 of this year, 1,400 sites ranked in the Alexa 100K have more than one CDN deployed, which is a 6% increase from Q1 of this year (this growth is slightly less than overall CDN adoption growth in the A100K since Q1, which was 8%).

Multi CDN Growth

So who is using multiple CDNs and why? A leading example is the tech giant Apple, which pretty much started the whole atoms-to-bits trend. For its most critical content delivery events, which affect billions of users, the firm now relies on multiple CDNs on a regular basis. The most recent example is the September iOS 8 software launch, dubbed “the most important update in iPhone history”, for which Apple reportedly used three different CDNs across multiple continents. (Dan Rayburn over at had an interesting analysis of this, as well as how Dyn Internet Intelligence technology tracked Apple’s multi-CDN performance).

As seen with Apple, and many other leading web-centric companies, the multi-CDN play is moving to the first page in the infrastructure deployment playbook for high-performance websites. The following are some trends we’ve observed in the market data on multi-CDN adoption, showing what types of companies use multi-CDN, as well as the supporting Internet Performance technologies used to support these architectures.

Multi-CDN Usage by Industry

Of course, you don’t have to be Apple, or even multi-billion-dollar tech giant in general, to take advantage of multiple CDNs. According to our research, top industries using single and multiple CDNs are as follows:

Top Single-CDN Industries Top Multi-CDN Industries


Internet/Computer Software Internet/Computer Software


Media Media


Retail Retail


Leisure, Sports & Recreation Leisure, Sports & Recreation


Corporate Services Corporate Services


Financial Services Schools & Education


Schools & Education Health, Wellness and Fitness


Consumer Products Real Estate Services


Electronics Consumer Products


Automotive Automotive

The fact that the top 5 CDN users are also multi-CDN users is no surprise. Organizations in each of these industries use CDNs for various reasons, but all are driven by the need to provide customers with a near-latency-free web experience. Software firms in particular like CDNs to push software updates as close to end users as possible, especially as endpoint devices go mobile. Media, Retail, Leisure, and Corporate Services (among which Advertising companies are a huge sub-segment) all frequently rely on multiple CDNs to deliver static and rich dynamic content. However, the data show that multi-CDN is more appealing to some industries than others. Comparing the top 10 industries for CDNs vs. multi-CDN use, three verticals in particular exemplify “atoms-to-bits” market transformation stories, with multi-CDNs playing a key role:

  • Health, Wellness, and Fitness: this market is ranked seventh as the most-frequent industry deploying multi-CDNs, but not a top-10 overall industry for CDNs in general. Growing interest in health related content is likely fueling this trend. The growth in health-related, Internet-connected wearable devices may also play a role.
  • Real Estate: Another industry with high deployments of multiple CDNs, online Real Estate sites must deliver troves of property listings to house-hunters and agents (usually via mobile devices), and multi-CDN clearly help in this effort.
  • Schools and Education: One of the biggest atoms-to-bits trends besides music is books, and many schools and education technology startups are upending the traditional textbook market and model by offering digital versions of course materials.

Internet Performance Technologies in Multi-CDN Environments

So multi-CDN users clearly care about Internet Performance. But according to our analysis, two other cloud infrastructure technologies — cloud DNS and Web Performance Monitoring (WPM) — are also considered key among web enterprises. According to our analysis, multi-CDN users more frequently deploy both of these technologies in conjunction with a multi-CDN architecture. Cloud DNS is deployed in 60% of multi-CDN domains ranked in the Alexa 100K — three times the adoption rate of cloud DNS overall in the Alexa 100K (20%) and 17% higher than DNS adoption among CDN users overall (43%). As for WPM adoption, 24% of all CDN deployments use tools such as New Relic, Pingdom and Catchpoint, while 36% of multi-CDN sites use these technologies. Multi-CDN site usage of WPM is also three-times the rate of the Alexa 100K overall (9%).

 Cloud Adoption

Since DNS can help with managing multiple CDN instances, it makes sense as to why cloud DNS adoption is higher in the multi-CDN crowd. For companies using multiple CDNs, they can utilize DNS to easily route their traffic amongst their different endpoints. Specifically, DNS becomes useful when companies want to change their usage amongst their CDNs or even stop using a CDN. Shutting off an endpoint becomes easier with managed DNS to help route the traffic.

So call it an Internet Performance tech-triumvirate, or triple-play, approach: multiple CDN deployments, managed via cloud DNS services and monitored with WPM tools. The logic is sound; deploy content across multiple networks for high availability; optimize traffic to that content via cloud DNS; and use WPM tools to monitor performance and take corrective action when latency or downtime events occur. Going forward, we expect cloud DNS and WPM adoption to grow with increasing multi-CDN deployments, while the integration will become tighter between traffic management and monitoring tools.

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