When we entered the CDN space a few years ago a central part of our “pitch” to the large online media providers was that Level 3 would help build the best distribution platform for them. Best in the sense that the performance and cost matched our customers’ needs. And we did this because we recognized that the content being delivered, the audience size and distribution, the monetization models, the content library size and popularity distribution all varied. And those variations mean that in many cases a blend of technologies is required to optimize performance or cost or both.
Many companies building content delivery platforms use CDN. But they also have their own servers delivering some portion of their content. And those servers need somewhere to be housed. They need some way of connecting to the Internet or to connect to network peers. They may need to be interconnected across the world on dedicated bandwidth.
So a one size fits all single service solution isn’t always the best. And if you only have that to sell, your ability to help customers solve their problems is always limited.
We started the company with the premise that we build networking services that perform at the highest level and are built at the lowest cost. We then don’t care how we move bits for customers – just that we do carry the bits. If it’s over dark fibre, a layer 2 bandwidth service, a layer 3 bandwidth service or a CDN or any combination that’s OK with us.
The common thinking in the industry is that the largest customers only ever move down the stack – from the highest “level” lit service to dark fibre. But what actually happens is way more complicated than that. We have been through several iterations with many of our largest customers. Some started off on dark fibre and moved to managed services. Some started off with managed services and then built their own network using fibre and colocation from Level 3. Some moved between these differently in different geographies. Some have moved to and fro between these various methods.
What is common is not the size of the customer. What is common is that Level 3 enables our customers’ networks to evolve as their business evolves. And that isn’t always either in a straight line or in a single direction. The economy, technology, business changes, strategic changes, geographic changes all impact how and when our customers change course – and in what direction.
And the key factor here is that our customers decide what is best for them. We try and maintain a diverse portfolio of networking products and services that makes us as agnostic as we can be as to the best solution for any customer at any time in their evolution.
And in the case of Netflix we already helped them move from a self-built CDN (where we provided other network services) to a commercial CDN. And now we are in the process of helping them move back. In the intervening time things have changed massively for them (in a good way), for the industry and in the market as a whole. What hasn’t changed is Level 3’s ability, and desire, to keep a wide-ranging stack of products and services operating at the highest level, built at the lowest cost, so that we can advise and help our customers through any transition they want to make.
We help our customers build a better mousetrap out of the parts we provide.