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Netflix launches its own content delivery network

Netflix is launching Open Connect, its own content delivery network. The new strategy allows the online video service, for the first time, to deliver its own content to Internet service providers in addition to using the commercial content delivery (CDN) networks it now employs.

Netflix now streams nearly one billion hours of video monthly over the Internet, using commercial CDN providers. The largest is Level 3 Communications. By owning its own CDN, Netflix will provide streaming video at no cost at locations selected by ISPs or through common Internet peering exchanges, wrote Ken Florance, Netflix’s vice president of content delivery, in a blog this week.

Florance noted that Google’s YouTube, the largest video service on the Internet, has long operated its own CDN. “Given our size and growth, it now makes economic sense for Netflix to have one as well,” he said.

Open Connect, according to Florance, is already serving about five percent of Netflix data. Netflix will continue to work with its commercial CDN partners for the next few years, he added, “but eventually most of our data will be served by Open Connect.”

As part of Open Connect, Netflix is also sharing its hardware design and the open source software components of the server. These cost-efficient designs are suitable for any high-volume provider of large media files. “We welcome commentary and improvements, which will be shared with the community with the goal of a faster, less expensive Internet for all,” Florance said.

The Netflix CDN may help solve future problems for the online video distributor. In North America, Netflix’s streaming video traffic already represents 33 percent of all peak hour downstream bandwidth over wireline broadband networks, said Sandvine, a provider of bandwidth management equipment, in a study released last April.

Last year, Level 3, which is Netflix’s primary CDN provider, accused Comcast Cable of violating the FCC’s network neutrality principles because the operator was charging interconnection fees. Comcast said that Level 3 was trying to avoid paying standard CDN fees.

Using Open Connect, Netflix said it now offers settlement-free peering connections in seven U.S. cities: New York (Equinix Internet Exchange, Telx Internet Exchange and NYIIX); Los Angeles (Any2 Internet Exchange); Chicago (Equinix); Ashburn, Va. (Equinix); Atlanta (Telx); Miami (NAP Of The Americas) and San Jose, California. (Equinix). Netflix also has a presence in London’s LINX and LONAP exchanges.

Netflix, which has also developed Open Connect Appliance Hardware, has published more info on the Open Connect initiative online.