Origin Server

An origin server is the original source of content distributed by a content delivery network (CDN). Examples include webpages, images, CSS files, and streaming media. A CDN retrieves data from the origin server and replicates it on edge servers around the world.

An origin server may be a dedicated or virtual web servers located at a web host. It is the physical server webmasters access when adding or updating website content and acts as the "source of truth" for the connected CDN. When a user accesses a resource not already cached on a specific edge node, the CDN will retrieve the page from the origin, then cache it on the corresponding edge server.

If a website does not use a CDN, there is no need for an origin server since a single web server handles all incoming requests.

Below are common origin server operations:

  1. Push - the origin server "pushes" content to CDN, replicating the content across multiple edge nodes
  2. Pull - the CDN "pulls" content from the origin server when it updates a resource or caches it for the first time
  3. Purge - the CDN removes an object from all edge servers, which is useful when updating a file on the origin server

NOTE: Most CDNs can be configured with custom caching directives, such as max-age or expires, which indicate how frequently the CDN should check the origin server for an updated file.

Updated April 27, 2022

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