Posted by : Randy Cooper in (CDN)
Google is taking some heat this morning from a Wall Street Journal piece that argues the company is abandoning its support of network neutrality in an attempt to make sites like YouTube faster than the competition.
The WSJ claims Google has approached major internet service providers “with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content.”
That would seem to fly in the face of the company’s long-standing support for network neutrality, but Google has called the WSJ’s article “confused,” and says that it remains committed to network neutrality.
The contention comes from the varying definitions of network neutrality. The simplest version of network neutrality says all internet traffic should delivered at the same speed over the same network. Unfortunately for supporters of the everything-is-absolutely-equal version of network neutrality, the concept has always been an ideal, more of a myth than reality.
The problem lies with what are known as content delivery networks (CDNs) that use so-called edge servers, located physically closer to you, to cache and deliver content faster. When you request the content from, in this case YouTube, it can be transmitted from the proposed edge servers rather than from Google’s central servers.
That means faster downloads for YouTube, but it also means a significantly less strain on bandwidth for the rest of the web. For example, imagine you download a YouTube movie, the next time someone on the same network wants to access the same file, the network can simply pass through the cached (and therefore faster) version. Edge servers reduce the need for ISPs to handle traffic outside their networks, which is one of the primary bottlenecks for internet speed.
Services like Akamai, Limelight and other CDNs are a common, if expensive, way for larger sites (with the money) to ensure that their data is transmitted faster (for instance, this page you’re reading right now is cached and served by Akamai).
The WSJ article refers to a Google project known as OpenEdge, which (as Google explains on its Public Policy blog) is a plan to put its own edge-cache servers directly inside ISP networks. The idea of the plan is that downloading a YouTube video or Picasa photo album is faster.