overlay network definition

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Overlay networks: Understanding the basics, making it a reality

An overlay network is a telecommunications network that runs independently on top of another one, although supported by its infrastructure. Examples of overlay networks include cloud provider networks, peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, virtual private networks (VPNs), content delivery networks (CDNs), experimental networks, and voice over IP (VoIP) services such as Skype.

Most overlay networks run on top of the public Internet, which itself began as an overlay research network running over the infrastructure of the public switched telephone network (PSTN).

This was first published in March 2013

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