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.
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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).