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14 April 2022

Mlytics CDN balancer is China-breaker, with path to decentralization

The timing of Faultline’s call this week with Taiwan-based Mlytics, a multi-CDN smart load balancing specialist, could not have been more perfect – days after some brazen claims were made about a certain new CDN balancer on the market.

Those claims came from Barcelona-based QoE analytics vendor NPAW, lauding that its brand new CDN Balancer (which has been running PoCs for the past year) is the only multi-CDN balancing technology on the market that can detect video performance issues and consumption patterns to optimize video delivery by user, region, and device.

Well, Mlytics set about debunking this, with Tony Lepage, Solutions Architect, and Tars Geerts, Growth Marketing Manager, telling us that NPAW is definitely not the only one out there with this three-pronged CDN monitoring and optimization approach. Mlytics just added an image optimization feature to cover the device angle, and it also collects client-side data for optimization, so that’s users covered.

Such is the importance of monitoring data in the last mile, that Mlytics actively encourages customers to install client-side code snippets, which Mlytics calls real-time beacons, to collect anonymous and privatized client-side data for its smart load balancer technology. Interestingly, we learned that a surprisingly high volume of clients are still hesitant about installing a snippet of JavaScript on their websites.

As for region, Mlytics is arguably going further than NPAW. The 80-peson company is currently in the process of training a machine learning algorithm within its SaaS platform that is capable of predicting the next 15 seconds of activity. This aims to support companies of different scale to optimize websites or web applications, for example by predicting ahead of time if the path to the origin has changed and balancing CDNs accordingly.

This is a work in progress, however, with Mlytics facing major challenges getting this into production based on a lack of data on certain geographic regions. Due to this patchy global picture, the predictive ML feature will roll out on a regional basis, hopefully by the end of June this year.

NPAW has clearly taken a Western-centric and video-intrinsic approach to some of these claims. Faultline will be clearing the air and burying the hatchet with NPAW in the coming weeks.

Without question, Mlytics’ X-factor over rival CDN balancers is its expertise in the Chinese market, even trumping in-house ones offered by the top CDN providers, such as Google’s CDN which has no presence in China whatsoever.

Our initial assumption that the majority of Mlytics’ customers and revenues are from Chinese clients was quickly discredited, as it is actually organizations trying to break into China that come knocking on the door of Mlytics.

Rival suppliers of CDN load balancing or switching techniques are probably thinking that Mlytics is only handling multi-CDN smart load balancing for website traffic, not pure video streaming traffic as we know it. Here we have another myth to be demystified, as the vendor also lists a few streaming scalps too, recently supporting live streamed events for Chinese electronics heavyweight Foxconn. It has a few more in the pipeline, including one major media name that is currently under NDA, at least for the next couple of months.

Technology giants like Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu are among the primary providers of CDN infrastructure in China, along with specialized CDN providers including BaishanCloud and ChinaCache. The two Mlytics representatives also noted a non-Chinese firm, with South Korea’s CDNetworks also popular in China.

Part of the difficulty for outsiders is that a specific license is required to host a website in China, which we understand is challenging to acquire for foreigners. Mlytics offers an alternative to that challenge. Instead of hosting edge servers inside China, it can host services at edge servers in nearby countries – Taiwan, the Philippines, Singapore etc. – to get content as close to end users as possible.

Things took a turn with the mention of blockchain, which is not a word you will find anywhere on the Mlytics website, as Lepage provided us with exclusive peek into a new in-house lab. Here, a team is putting performance metrics onto the blockchain to help contribute to the running of infrastructure on multiple clouds.

This segued us straight into decentralized CDNs, which is when Lepage’s face lit up like a kid at Christmas. He spoke excitedly about how decentralization is the future, with Mlytics’ business model and technology suited to a decentralized path to origins. The company wants to run its virtual machines and Domain Name System on multiple clouds and PoP edge nodes, where anyone can spin up a distributed application and be rewarded for it.

While Mlytics’ decentralization roadmap is in a fledgling state, pending customer demand, the confidence is there. The plan is to look at the data and reward people based on its smart load balancer, exploring ways to allow customers to contribute hardware in a hybrid model.

“You can’t stop decentralized apps even with a great firewall, he said. “This is definitely the future.”

On that note, Mlytics’ latest product is its Origin Shield firewall, a security suite deployed across multiple CDNs combined with smart load balancing to boost network performance and maximize origin server protection. The company claims to deliver more resilience and redundancy than typical CDN-based origin shield offerings.

Lepage mentioned that he is a pessimist – viewing the multi-CDN market as an insurance against inevitable internet outages of massive scale. The high-level message is that all CDNs have pros and cons, so Mlytics take some assets from here, others from there, and tries to bring them together – taking all the pros to produce a proactive approach.

Having started out in 2017 as a multi-CDN vendor with some level of intelligence, Mlytics still gets organizations today mistaking it for a CDN provider. Of course, it doesn’t have racks of servers spread across the world, but what it has done is build an ecosystem which incorporates PoPs to guarantee five nines uptime.

While there are plenty of CDN load balancers on the market, Mlytics sees many of them as partners. There is one exception in the form of a competitor which is also trying to break into China – and the internal joke is that this is the side project of the current Mlytics CEO.