Apple's $100M content delivery network will mean better downloads when updates hit

Apple spent 00M to smooth out OS X and iOS updates

Long rumored, Apple's custom content delivery network (CDN) is now apparently live. The Apple CDN, which provides a more direct route from Apple's servers to customers' devices, enables Apple to provide significantly faster downloads of their products, as well as greatly increasing the available capacity for when mass downloads (OS X and iOS updates) hit.

Per Streaming Media Blog's Dan Rayburn:

"Apple has more than 10x the capacity they are using today, all ready to go. With Apple planning to release the beta version of their next desktop OS today, Yosemite (10.10), and with iOS 8 expected to come out this fall, Apple's putting in place a lot of capacity to support upcoming software releases. Apple is still using Akamai and Level 3â€ēs CDN services for iTunes (Akamai), Radio (Level 3) and app downloads, but over time, much of that traffic will be brought over to Apple's CDN. It's too early to know how much traffic will come over and when, but Apple's already started using their own CDN much faster than I expected."

It's estimated that Apple has spent well over $100 million building out their CDN, which consists of both their own servers as well as leasing server and network capacity from the likes of Level 3. Apple has additionally set up interconnect deals with multiple ISPs, including Comcast. The CDN's only good for content delivered from Apple, though — we're talking about OS X and iTunes updates, iCloud, and iTunes content here.

Do you think that Apple better controlling the process of delivering content will result in an improved experience for users?

Source: Streaming Media Blog

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Derek Kessler

Managing Editor of Mobile Nations, occasional web designer, Army musician, armchair pundit, news addict, all-around nerd, professional ranter, and user of many phones.

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Reader comments

Apple's $100M content delivery network will mean better downloads when updates hit


I'm an absolute 100% supporter of net neutrality, and would have no problems with the FCC reclassifying ISPs altogether.

That said, a CDN isn't necessarily a problem with regards to net neutrality.

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A CDN is just a distributed set of servers to supply content from the closest point to the end user as possible.


For a simplified example, Apple may have data centers in the US West Coast and Europe. A user in France will hit the European data center, and save precious hops (and potential congestion) because her request does not have to cross the Atlantic.

That has nothing to do with any specific ISP; just a desire for Apple to put their content as close to their users as they can, to give them a faster response. These data centers may link to one ISP or more than one, but the geography is typically as important as the pipe provider(s). The CDN concept predates the recent subversion of net neutrality by several decades.

Now, can an ISP cry "CDN" to try and put a friendly face on nefarious behavior? Sure, they can. But that does not seem to be the case here.

Netflix is a CDN, meaning all that stink about Netflix having to pay Comcast was bunk with regards to net neutrality?

Still haven't read up, apparently.

Netflix is not a CDN. Netflix *has* a CDN -- and they had one before the kerfluffle with Comcast. What Netflix also produced was clear evidence that Comcast (and, later, Verizon) was throttling them specifically to exact a toll. Thanks to our government being firmly on the side of the ISPs, Netflix has had to pay that toll to multiple different double-dipping providers now.

The published information on Netflix's openconnect initiative is quite interesting ( ), and they are doing so in part *because* ISPs are now often misrepresenting net neutrality violations as CDN plays, but net neutrality and content delivery networks are separate concepts.

Netflix has an open CDN and they pay Comcast et al to get preferred bandwidth and that violates net neutrality.
Apple has a closed CDN and they pay Comcast et al to get preferred bandwidth and that doesn't violate net neutrality.

Got it.

"a CDN isn't necessarily a problem with regards to net neutrality"

Read that original sentence over and over again until it sinks in. Especially that "isn't necessarily" part.

*Preferred bandwidth* -- Apple packets getting priority over Google's through the same equipment -- is a violation of net neutrality, sure. But placing a copy of your data one hop away from an ISP's backbone, and paying for that access, like the traceroute in the article indicated (you did read the article, didn't you?) is not. What Comcast did to Netflix is the former. What Apple appears to be doing here is the latter.

But I could be wrong -- perhaps Comcast is twirling their mustache while tying a helpless Apple to the railroad tracks. Or perhaps this is a standard CDN arrangement, with Apple replacing some of their reliance on Akamai with their own setup. You know, like the article said? (You did read the article, didn't you?)

I'm not sure what is so hard to understand here. Comcast has nothing to do with other providers. You are conflating two very separate issues:

Two content providers, feeding their content through one ISP. ISP gives priority to provider A over provider B. Clear violation of net neutrality, or would be if our FCC had guts.

One content provider, sending their content through ISP A and ISP B. If B is slower than A (your latest complaint), well, tough noogies. A has no responsibility or ability to mess up B; it is the content person's choice. Now, if A deliberately underperformed to shake money out of the provider, we are back to scenario 1. But there is nothing to suggest that has happened here. Perhaps an analogy would help.

MS has servers powering Titanfall in Brazil, to which gamers in Rio and Accra (Ghana, Africa) both connect. The player in Rio has better latency and performance. Is that the African ISP's fault, or some evil plan on the part of a Brazilian telco? Of course not; it is just physics - an outgrowth of MS decision where to locate their data center.

THAT's when it is not a net neutrality problem; when the decisions are the content provider's, not imposed artificially by the ISP. CDNs have been built around those location decisions for decades; there is nothing in Apple or anybody else's statements, or the recent history of Apple service connectivity, indicating this is any different here.

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Believe me, I'm as mad at the perversion of net neutrality as you are, and I don't for a second think the Comcasts of the world won't try to hide their shenanigans behind flowery talk of CDNs. I don't see it in this specific case, but I could be wrong. Apple certainly has enough money to pay off every ISP without showing any discomfort publicly.

Better to get riled up and check into it than lay back and accept their word for it :)

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I'm not sure it worked flawlessly during the Yosemite beta rollout. :)

(I assume they are beta testing this service as well. Good to see it coming.)

Yeah I'm sick of waiting a week to download new iOS updates because apple won't spring for upgrades.

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A several months ago I said to a 'news' blogger in a tweet that I believed that Apple didn't make a big fuss over the Net Neutrality thing because they were making deals in the process to implementing their own Content Delivery Network. He Poo Poo'd that suggestion. Bit of a shame that he didn't focus on that suggestion and dug deeper. LOL