Limelight Storage an Inside Job

Content provider bypasses SAN for direct-attached SATA on massive scale

February 2, 2007

2 Min Read
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9:00 AM -- Whose storage does the world's second-biggest high-performance content delivery network use -- you know, the network that powers media companies like Akimbo, Amazon Unbox,,, MySpace, Xbox Live, and YouTube?

We weren't ready for the answer when we asked that question of Michael Gordon, cofounder and chief strategy officer of Limelight Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: LLNW), which brought down $130 million in new funding in 2006 and is, with Akamai Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: AKAM), leading the white-hot market for content delivery networks (CDNs) worldwide. (See Content Delivery Takes the Limelight in '06.)

Gordon told us: "Our server infrastructure is almost entirely Intel-based... We have no SAN or NAS."

It's true. Limelight's network, which costs upwards of $50 million to create, includes its own optical backbone, runs in all the major Internet hubs and colocation facilities worldwide, and sustains 10-Gbit/s internally, does not use any high-performance SAN, terabyte NAS, clustering, or virtualization.

Instead, the storage for its "many, many thousands" of servers is housed on home-grown Intel boxes with mostly SATA drives. These custom-built boxes are positioned strategically in the network to ensure that songs, videos, and other frequently-requested content is cached closest to where it's needed. Together, they act as a "storage layer" for the massive Limelight network.But how does Limelight know which content (music, games, video, etc.) needs to be sent to the edge servers? How is security handled? How is reliability ensured, given the focus on SATA drives?

All this is a trade secret, Gordon says. It's also a secret who is supplying Limelight with its custom-built servers, though Gordon says the company uses switches from Foundry, HP, and MRV.

Gob-smacked by it all, we asked Gordon if he'd ever think of using third-party storage equipment. "It's been a couple of years since I looked at a SAN or NAS vendor... Our architecture performs really, really well." He may look again at commercial storage solutions, but for today, he'll hold his own.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • MRV Communications Inc.

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