In this article, we will explore what a CDN is, its role and place in accessing the internet in China, and compare two top choices for CDNs in China - Akamai CDN and Cloudfront CDN.
CDNs perform a variety of functions. The primary function behind why websites use a CDN is in respect to accelerating the "delivery of content".
Content delivery networks are a distributed series of servers that store cacheable content closer to the visitor trying to access it.
CDNs usually tackle two key areas, Speed and Reliability. Developers use CDNs in China to accelerate regional delivery for their static files (i.e. images or files hosted on their website).
Despite their limitations in solving all of the common issues arising from loading websites in China, a well-selected CDN is still helpful in resolving some portions of website performance issues that websites face.
More about China CDN comparisons and considerations can be read here.
Akamai Technologies, Inc. is a global content delivery network (CDN), cybersecurity, & cloud service company providing web and Internet security services. Akamai's Intelligent Edge Platform is one of the world's largest distributed computing platforms and is used primarily by Enterprises.
Akamai does not operate its own CDN or points-of-presence (i.e. POPs) in China. Instead, they partner with ChinaNetCenter and leverage their onshore PoPs.
It is important to note that Akamai China CDN is an add-on module to Akamai’s base-delivery products such as Ion.
ChinaNetCenter is also known as Wangsu Technology Company Limited, which is functionally a third-party service that is logically separated from Akamai's global operations (for many reasons).
Wangsu has 500+ POPs in China and provides largely the typical CDN services one would expect from a content delivery network. However, Akamai global CDN features such as image optimisation and DNS are not available for Akamai China.
This is similar to Cloudflare's China CDN, and their partnership with Baidu.
Prerequisites to use Akamai China CDN include an ICP Filing or License, a local hosting agreement with a Chinese-based hosting provider, a PSB filing, a legal entity in China/China-owned business or a China-based representation office. Companies remain the exclusive owner of customer data but data must be stored domestically in China.
Amazon CloudFront is a content delivery (CDN) service that securely delivers data, videos, applications, and APIs to customers globally with low latency, high transfer speeds, all within a developer-friendly environment.
Operated by Amazon Web Services (AWS), this CDN provides a globally distributed network of proxy servers that cache content closer to end visitors, thus improving access speed for downloading the content. They also provide other services including Real-time Metrics, Security against Network and Application layer attacks, and more.
CloudFront does not operate its own CDN or points-of-presence (i.e. POPs) in China. Instead, CloudFront China has three Points-of-Presence (POPs) that are separated from the rest of their global network. AWS China (Beijing) is operated by Ningxia Western Cloud Data Co. Ltd. (NWCD) & AWS China (Ningxia) are operated by Sinnet respectively.
To use CloudFront China, customers need to obtain these prerequisites including: an ICP Filing or License, a local hosting agreement with a Chinese-based hosting provider, a PSB filing, and a legal entity in China/China-owned business or a China-based representation office. Companies remain the exclusive owner of customer data but data must be stored domestically in China.
Whilst both services are CDNs, Akamai CDN and AWS Cloudfront differ in several areas.
Service terms requirement: No minimum period (AWS) vs 12-month contract (Akamai)
Support: Self-serve with public documentation (AWS) vs sales support with documentation to be provided (Akamai)
Number of POPs in China: three (AWS) vs 500+ (Akamai), however, all leveraged via their partners. Typically, more POPs on the CDN network enables possible performance gains,
Due to the requirements to have your site and content hosted within China, the result is that users in China are retrieving files from CDN nodes generally outside of China - often from nodes much further away than the optimal CDN range. This is especially true given the China internet’s specific limitations.
Even so, CDNs with POPs inside China might only help to some extent. While primary resources and static files that can be cached by CDNs might experience acceleration, there are elements that CDNs and hosting providers don’t touch that still can cause issues with how your website works in China.
These incompatibilities arise from the variety and multitude of technologies that are blocked or slow to load in China.
This includes essential libraries widely used by developers globally, popular plugins, and or default components that website-building platforms inherently include out of the box.
Most modern-day websites are made up of hundreds of these resources.
Defining Primary vs. Third-Party Resources: Primary resources are defined as web resources hosted on the primary website domain (www.website.com) vs. third-party resources which are hosted and managed by third-party providers (e.g. assets.webcms.com, apis.google.com)
Chinafy works with CDN providers like Akamai and Cloudflare as a fully managed service that generates a China-friendly version of a website to achieve near-onshore performance with either an offshore or onshore setup.
Chinafy does this by:
i) Enabling Rule-based Smart Actions to address code-based incompatibility on the application layer, delivering a more functional website experience in China.
ii) Re-engineering the technical stack with premium near-China CDN. There is also the option for companies with an onshore presence and an ICP license to leverage our cloud partner network for onshore POPs.
iii) Complementing Akamai CDN or Cloudfront CDN to deliver content with premium near-China POPs
Get in touch to learn more about how Chinafy optimizes your website for China.