In the last year or so the Internet caching market returned from its hibernation decade, straight onto the radar screens of leading telecom equipment manufacturers – fixed and mobile alike. (for example Juniper and Cisco)
During this long cache winter independent software vendors have invested in developing solutions which may share the same name, yet address different needs – capacity savings vs. quality of experience (QoE) improvement, managed content vs. over-the-top (OTT), content specific vs. application specific vs. everything-HTTP vs. protocol agnostic, saving peering vs. saving transport, located at the network core vs. located at network edge.
This spaghetti of solutions triggered operators and ISPs to redefine their cache strategies. Whereas previously an ISP would just require a single file-caching system in the entry to its network, nowadays legacy file-caching is no longer effective for most of the Internet content (which is just not files anymore but rather fragments of streams, example here), and CDNs replace much of file-caching traditional role. The new environment requires new solutions.
Networking gear providers are taking a close look at this market, rehearsing before they play an active role. Speaking to such players I have witnessed significantly different points of view, perhaps emerging from the different positions such players come from.
Yet, they all share the same concerns – cache servers, as the name implies, serve content. They act as a “mini Internet in a box.” Placing such an entity in the network (a) puts constraints on routing and traffic engineering (b) requires endless goose chase after the evolving Internet, its protocols, formats and business logic. The independence of the network and the IT may be jeopardized by introducing application manipulators into the network.
Whereas such approach can be contained for managed content, it raises many concerns with regards to OTT. Content not managed by the operator should arrive from the content providers directly or through their representatives – namely CDNs. If you worry about peering or transport costs, expand your bandwidth using virtual capacity – a content-agnostic solution, equivalent to addition of bandwidth.
From the core southbound – let the network be a network. Make sure you network is efficient as possible by expanding it virtually for all bits without application, protocol or content discrimination. This way you get best of all worlds – optimal network, full design flexibility and zero application-level configuration.