Starting in January 2012, this large consumer packaged goods (CPG) company with customers in over 150 countries went live on the CDNetworks platform to optimize performance across hundreds of its customer-facing websites in Asia Pacific and EMEA. The performance improvements have been so impressive that the global website infrastructure and support team, as well as developers and business partners worldwide, have standardized on the new website delivery architecture using CDNetworks for EMEA and APAC regions.
For a company with thousands of websites, many with their own developer teams, the process of selecting and implementing any new technology can be a tremendous challenge. The challenge grows further when introducing an additional layer to website delivery infrastructure. This case study highlights the best-practice steps this CPG company took in two critical areas: identifying the optimal solution for improving global website performance; and streamlining roll-out of the solution across hundreds of global sites.
In mid-2011, when the company’s centralized Infrastructure Support team began seeking the ideal solution for optimizing global site performance, they faced a complex situation. Websites and code were written specifically for each country, and developers in each country had already coded hundreds of sites, some of which routinely experience traffic volumes of hundreds of thousands of hits per hour. “We have websites for everything under the sun in almost every country,” says a key member of the Infrastructure Support team. “It’s not fun to troubleshoot websites written in foreign languages, because everything that describes them is also written in those foreign languages.” Until 2011, the company had leveraged hosting providers in each region. However, the cost was high, site performance inconsistent, and trouble-shooting problems still often fell to the US-based Infrastructure Support team. “We couldn’t stay with our countryby-country hosting strategy, and we definitely didn’t want to run data centers all over the world. The costs and complexity of each are astronomical,” says one member of the team.
The company had always achieved acceptable website performance in North America, so it considered serving global content from there. However, performance tests quickly showed that distance-induced latency made it impossible to serve APAC and EMEA customers from North American data centers. The team then researched the option of hosting websites for groups of countries by region. “Unfortunately, regional hosting providers are also incredibly expensive, and they lack the local infrastructure needed to overcome country-specific problems,” says one team member.
With its websites relying heavily on country-focused development teams, the company’s websites utilize numerous PADs (portable application descriptions) to provide a consistent and standard method for communicating content for product descriptions and other product- and website-specific details. Since CDNs can deliver and accelerate PADs and domains, the Infrastructure Support team investigated using a global CDN to replace its numerous hosting providers. This, they believed, would standardize website acceleration techniques globally, while also saving costs.
The team evaluated multiple CDNs, including both independent CDNs and CDN services bundled within global hosting provider services. The team was able to narrow the field of independent CDNs very quickly, because even though several could offer acceleration services globally, only two could do so as a course of ordinary business. Says one team member, “They all claim global capabilities, but ‘global’ is not standard for most of them, which makes their price premiums huge outside Europe and North America.”
Of the two CDNs that could cost-effectively provide global capabilities, only CDNetworks demonstrated a substantial enough CDN team and infrastructure in Asia Pacific to satisfy the needs of a global CPG company and thousands of local sites. According to one team member, “CDNetworks has a VERY good footprint in APAC. That has always been a regional concern for us, because it’s such a long, long distance to travel.”
Another substantial differentiator that set CDNetworks apart from other CDNs is the way in which CDNetworks manages caching rules. CDNetworks designed its rule base to be inclusive, not exclusive, because the list of items that web teams typically want to include for caching is far shorter than the list of items they want to exclude. “Some CDNs we reviewed were exclusion-based, so we had to start telling them not to cache all kinds of stuff, dynamic and otherwise,” says one team member. “With CDNetworks, we can just say ‘include anything that ends in JPEG or SWF’ and move on.” Having inclusion-based rules would later serve as a critical capability to performing a time-saving roll-out of CDN services.
To justify its decision to utilize CDNetworks globally, the team performed numerous performance tests in each region of the world outside North America. They consistently achieved performance improvements of 50% - 75%, depending on the region tested. They were also able to offload large amounts of content from their origin servers, which would help offset CDN costs with bandwidth cost savings. “People say bandwidth is a commodity, but bandwidth costs can run up fast when you deliver the kind of volume we experience,” says one team member.
Since standardizing on CDNetworks for global content acceleration, the company has realized significant returns on their investment. Customers are experiencing superior performance on the company’s sites. The following are the most salient data for performance improvements:
These types of improvements have led country-specific developers to request more sites be placed on the CDNetworks delivery template. Of their thousands of sites, hundreds are run over CDNetworks infrastructure, while less-trafficked sites still run over CDN services bundled from the few remaining hosting providers. The developers have noticed that traffic spikes on non-CDNetworks sites are far more visible, and they now clamor for all their sites to utilize CDNetworks. “This means we can consolidate data centers while actually improving performance,” says an Infrastructure Support team member. “It gives us the advantage of being able to host wherever we like and at less cost.”
As more country sites leverage the CDNetworks template and rely less on unique infrastructures, the company expects to gain further savings from reductions in infrastructure complexity. According to the team lead, reducing complexity will be a critical operational aspect as their customer-facing websites move from today’s purely B2B stance to a more B2C set of offerings. “B2C will be much more dynamic, and we want to be ready for it,” says an Infrastructure Support team member.