Akamai Technologies: Reinventing CDN for Expectations of Tomorrow

Dr. F. Thomas Leighton, CEO Facebook, ESPN, and NASA seem an unlikely list of clientele unless the company being talked about is Akamai Technologies [NASDAQ:AKAM]. These giants have revolutionized the way the world perceives technology with Akamai serving as a backbone. With over 175,000 servers in over 100 countries, Akamai has deployed pervasive and highly distributed content delivery network. Akamai’s Co-Founder and CEO, Dr. Thomson Leighton, in a recent interview, reminisced about the first ‘eureka’ moment for Akamai—“In March of 1999, we were the only entity on the web distributing the Star Wars trailer while others failed to bear the loads. Coincidentally that same day, the first day of March Madness, when ESPN.com went down, we put them back online in 15 minutes and they were five-times faster than they had ever been.”

The internet has come a long way since then. The importance of internet in today’s competitive business environment is such that organizations have to break the status quo in terms of technology. The requirement is to maintain business continuity even in the time of an outage, be it natural or manmade. Organizations also aim to deliver consistent web application performance as users can quickly get frustrated and abandon applications altogether in case responsiveness and reliability become an issue. The applications should be accessible in all kinds of mobile devices as the modern workforce has ‘upped the ante’ for adoption of BYOD in the workplace.

“There are four grand challenges we are working on,” explains Dr. Leighton. “Providing instant web performance on any device, anywhere; making the internet secure; delivering quality video over IP at scale; and creating the next generation of enterprise networks.” Contemporary web applications need to surmount heavy internet traffic for effective and time-bound delivery of content and web pages come with elements that make it difficult to load quickly. “An elaborate study suggests that 34 percent of consumers are likely to switch to a competitor’s app, 31 percent are less likely to make a purchase, and 24 percent have negative brand perception in case of slow mobile applications,” informs Dr. Leighton.

In an interesting analogy, Akamai was described as a limousine service that promises a smooth ride anywhere through the complex global network. Akamai and CDN were born in the lab of MIT as a solution to Professor Tim Berners Lee’s challenge of providing stable internet services during periods of high traffic. Since then Akamai has been ensuring seamless access of web pages to virtually every internet user. The company, today, has evolved its solutions to ensure a hassle free access of internet, enabling organizations to capitalize on the “age of consumerization.” Consequently, many organizations are adopting Forrester’s finding—The only way to win, serve, and retain customers is to become customer-obsessed. Businesses are now focused on customizing and tailoring their solutions as per the mobile demands of their tech savvy customers.

The proliferation of mobile devices has changed the decision pattern of consumers and Google alike. The search giant recently announced that mobile-friendliness of a website will have a significance in its webpage ranking algorithms.
This change will affect mobile searches in all language worldwide and will have a significant impact in Google’s search results.

Empowered by Akamai’s Intelligent Platform, companies are able to improve web performance for an instantaneous, personalized and secure web experience

Organizations have to align with the changing internet environment, and cater to the mobile needs of its consumers. Rise of video streaming giants like NetFlix and YouTube, and entry of ecommerce has necessitated Akamai to incorporate these trends, and maintain status quo in terms of its leadership in CDN space. “We are working on technologies that will lead to services that prioritize different kinds of mobile web traffic, use distributed devices for storing or ‘caching’ video content, and compress photos selectively based on the kind of device being used,” says Dr. Leighton.

Upsurge in Mobility Demands

Complexities in delivering and managing the web experience extend beyond the growth in mobile. Additionally, companies are faced with new challenges in the desktop environment, including browser fragmentation, network evolution, and client-side technologies. “The performance of mobile devices, especially on cellular networks, can be poor,” explains Dr. Leighton. Organizations must invest on technology to maintain a quality web experience in the desktop environment as well as to create an optimized experience for the very distinct mobile market. Variable conditions and static expectations have created a significant challenge in the delivery of web content.

An Akamaized company is deft in overcoming these challenges. Empowered by Akamai’s Intelligent Platform, companies are able to improve web performance for an instantaneous, personalized and secure web experience. The cloud-based platform offers a range of capabilities for securely distributing and accelerating web content, enterprise applications and video streaming. For instance, by leveraging Web Application Accelerator (WAA), organizations can deliver web-based enterprise applications, like CRM or supply chain management, that are reliable, secure, fast, and cost-efficient. WAA increases the chances of adoption of web applications and drives productivity without having to invest in hardware, software or application code changes.

The adoption of web applications also depends on the time the web page takes to load. Akamai Ion is a tightly integrated suite of scale, performance, and intelligence technologies required for real-time web experience optimization based on end-users’ situations across devices, locations, browsers and networks. Ion offers a fully-automated solution for situational performance which enables organizations to deliver faster web application responses,anticipate requests in fewer round trips and bytes, while improving the performance audiences’ experience. Ion applies optimizations adaptively based on sophisticated analysis of the web application, as well as real-time conditions specific to the end-user’s environment such as browser, device, network speed and presence of third-party services.
"Aura LCDN can also seamlessly federate with the Intelligent Platform, providing global CDN reach beyond the operator’s network footprint with a single business agreement"

The customers of Akamai have been benefitted by the unmatched combination of performance, scale and intelligence furnished by Akamai’s Intelligent Platform. The company has enabled organizations to deliver seamless and interrupt free web access, no matter the size of media available in the organizations’ website. For instance, Airbnb is an innovative Travel and Hospitality Company founded in 2008. Airbnb came up with a simple idea: let people put up their spare bedrooms, houses, even tree houses for accommodation. In doing so, a lot of high resolution images were placed in the website by the users. Since Airbnb’s offerings were mobile compatible as well, Akamaizing their server was imperative. Using Akamai’s offerings, Airbnb was able to scale its website for customers located in 192 different countries, and Akamai allowed them to deliver a fast experience wherever Airbnb’s customers might be across the globe.

Delivering Rich Media Content

Tech-savvy users expect access to high-quality video streaming experiences, irrespective of the device they are using. Organizations need to cater to these demands while seeking ways to offload transit and other bandwidth related costs from their networks. Akamai’s Aura Licensed CDN (LCDN) presents a potent solution for delivering rich media content in different devices and network connectivity.

It is comprised of licensed software deployed and managed by network operators and designed to create new revenue opportunities, enhance subscriber experience and reduce costs. LCDN leverages two core software components— Aura HyperCache and Aura Request Router—that operate in tandem to deliver HTTP content from the network operator to end users in a highly efficient, scalable and reliable manner.

LCDN can also seamlessly federate with the Intelligent Platform, providing global CDN reach beyond the operator’s network footprint with a single business agreement. LCDN components run on Commercial Off-The-Shelf hardware or in Virtual Machine environments. Additionally, Aura Managed CDN offers a turnkey and scalable content delivery network with infrastructure managed by Akamai.

Akamai is focused on the goal of deploying software into enterprises, carriers, and billions of devices forming a massively-distributed platform for the secure, fast, reliable and cost-effective delivery of all forms of online content and business applications. The web and video ecosystems are in a constant state of change and evolution. New devices, standards, technologies and consumer behaviors make support for large-scale events difficult from both a planning standpoint and an execution standpoint. The coming years will witness more mobile devices, larger audiences and increased bit rates associated with a move to higher-quality video and 4K streaming. “We’d like our software to be on every device—in every home, branch office, enterprise, and ubiquitous throughout the carriers, so that we can optimize and secure the delivery of online content and applications,” concludes Leighton.

Akamai Technologies

Cambridge, MA

Dr. F. Thomas Leighton, CEO

Akamai helps businesses connect the hyper-connected, empowering them to transform and reinvent their business online.