Apple’s CDN Plans Would Give It Greater Control Over Streaming For Expanded Offerings

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Apple is said to be working on a content delivery network (CDN) all its own, according to new information reported last night by the Wall Street Journal. Cupertino wants to build a large network capable of driving more data to its customers, for the purposes of providing improved streaming offerings for its television products.

Apple is making its way down a path that has already been walked by other major Internet content players including Google, Facebook and Netflix, each of which has invested heavily in network infrastructure in order to support the vast amount of media being streamed via their online portals and products.

The WSJ report also notes that building its own CDN will help Apple manage its growing iCloud service usage, as well as hosting and delivering content from the iTunes and App Stores, both streamed and downloaded. Apple has managed to accumulate enough bandwidth from web providers to allow it to move “hundreds of gigabits per second,” however, according to Bill Norton, CSO for the International Internet Exchange, speaking to the WSJ, and that likely means they’re laying the groundwork for much bigger plans beyond existing needs.

The biggest advantage for Apple in building its own CDN might come from improved quality and reliability of services. Apps, movies and music would all potentially download faster if Apple controlled the entire chain, for instance, since it has to spend less time dealing with third-party players outside of its corporate domain, which invariably add delays, miscommunications and possible points of failure into the mix.

WSJ also notes that Apple has been on a bit of a hiring spree when it comes to adding talent specializing in both TV content and CDN tech: Lauren Provo, a Comcast exec came on board in September; Jean-François Mulé, a former VP at a TV research and dev company is another recent hire; the company is also building a roster of CDN specialists, the report suggests.

Netflix’s decision to do the same, which was detailed by GigaOM back in June 2012, was cited as a key factor in the company’s evolution as its streaming volumes increased. It gave Netflix a more direct relationship to the Internet service providers who were the ones tasked with getting their shows to their audience, and Netflix cited YouTube as the archetypical example of how at a certain point of volume, the economic case for doing it yourself becomes overwhelming.

Apple continues to add new content channels to the Apple TV with fair frequency, which adds to its streaming media load, and recent reports suggest that there’s even more coming on the horizon, with a potential SDK for new Apple TV hardware. This WSJ report suggests that’s a very real, very immediate possibility, and offers one more hint that TV may soon be something more akin to a core product line at Apple.