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Coronavirus pandemic | CDN: The secret tool allowing global networks to handle sudden spike in internet traffic

Our dependency on the internet and network system has increased manifold in this ongoing isolation.

April 27, 2020 / 08:14 PM IST

Ashwin Rao

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a crisis of unprecedented levels with nations across the globe undergoing a lockdown. People are urged to retract from social (physical) interactions worldwide. Our networks have become our lifelines. Our dependency on the internet and network system has increased manifold in this isolated world.

The strength of our network connections decides if we will be able to deliver to the deadlines on that day, or will be able to connect to a critical client on video conferencing app or be able to catch up a movie on OTT platform later in the evening. While the completion of the mentioned tasks remains shrouded in doubt, the present times have revealed our increased reliability on networks that remained unacknowledged before.

Every person is trying to connect to a virtual world to interact with friends, families or colleagues. WhatsApp and other social messaging platforms have taken over the traditional messaging mode. As opposed to the weekends that attracted more traffic to online streaming platforms, weekdays are also witnessing a substantial spike in traffic.

One thing is for sure that the networks are under a lot of strain due to immense traffic. Had the internet seen this surge a decade earlier, it would have broken down. Hence, adjustments to the current infrastructure are necessary to deal with the unforeseen circumstances. But how are our networks surviving the sudden load on a global scale?

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Today, the networks are well-equipped to handle heavy traffic. While the OTT platforms devised their ways to handle the bandwidth, websites and other content providers have a tool to deal with a sudden surge in users under such critical situations on a global scale.

The tool is CDN. Every website is capable of attracting a set number of users on its page. If the number exceeds the limit, the site becomes slow or becomes inaccessible. CDNs act as distributed servers connected by private fiber links that deliver digital content such as web pages and video to the user via service provider last mile connections. This method minimizes latency, or slow response times, and eases the traffic load on a customer’s own network. CDNs also provide protection against large traffic surges, such as when viewers watch a live streaming event.

It especially comes handy at times like these when news sites and health sites are attracting a bevy of users every day. Though the sites are accustomed to handling a large number of users due to the nature of the commodity, they would never have thought to be experiencing such a huge response from all corners of the world.

Of course, the websites could be further optimised to handle more users, but the immediate needs can be easily averted due to CDNs in place. Their servers are capable of handling outstanding amounts of traffic and fine-tuned to perform, stay stable while being constantly monitored. CDNs act as a significant tool in diverting issues of networks during times of emergencies.

Today there’s an urgent need for an uninterrupted network because of the prolonged times spent in the safe confines of our homes during the lockdown. Whether it's surfing heavy, rich-media intensive websites or downloading software and games, or watching video, the amount of bandwidth needed to satisfy consumers today is on the rise. And the efficacies of the network under incredible stress due to the worldwide crisis has brought the power of CDNs to the fore.

The author is Director, Limelight Networks (India), a company that offers content delivery technology and services that helps organizations secure digital content, deliver exceptional multi-screen experiences, improve brand awareness, drive revenue, and enhance customer relationships, while keeping a check on costs.
Moneycontrol Contributor
first published: Apr 27, 2020 08:14 pm

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