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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Akamai Edge Customer conference - Innovating at the Edge

I attended the Akamai Edge customer conference last week for 2 days out of 3.   The conference is an annual gathering of Akamai’s customers focused on the challenges and best practices for business innovation in today’s hyperconnected world. 
Interactive technical sessions and case studies explored strategies for tackling application migration to the cloud, mobile site optimization and performance, security, and the consumption of rich media across any device.   There were over 800 people in attendance with over 200 international customers. 

Akamai is a Content Delivery Network (CDN) provider who operate a global “edge” network, meaning that their network extends close to the “edge”.  The “edge” means relatively close to the end customer/consumer for web or mobile site and application consumption.  Since the network extends close to the “edge” and employs caching, the performance is high, meaning fast page or application load times and high reliability.   Many web sites and mobile applications are “powered” by Akamai.  The Akamai network is used by many content providers to deliver their traffic to their consumers.

From Wikipedia, “Akamai provides a service to companies that have content on the Internet (Akamai's customers), to more efficiently deliver this content to users browsing the Web and downloading content. Akamai does this by transparently mirroring content—sometimes all site content including HTML, CSS, and software downloads, and sometimes just media objects such as audio, graphics, animation, and video—from customer servers. Though the domain name (but not subdomain) is the same, the IP address points to an Akamai server or another user's machine that Akamai is using as a server rather than the customer's server. The Akamai server is automatically picked depending on the type of content and the user's network location.

The benefit is that users can receive content from whichever Akamai server or user is close to them or has a good connection, leading to faster download times and less vulnerability to network congestion or outages.

In addition to content caching, Akamai provides services which accelerate dynamic and personalized content, J2EE-compliant applications, and streaming media to the extent that such services frame a localized perspective.”

Some fascinating statistics were quoted during the conference.  According to Johan Wibergh, EVP & Head of Networks for Ericsson, today 5 billion people own mobile phones and in 2020 there will be 50 Billion connected devices.   That number is staggering considering that today there are approximately 7 Billion people in the world !   As a corollary, he predicts that data over mobile will increase 15 times in the next 5 years.  Others, including the Economist, predict less growth by 2020, but even 10 Billion connected devices is staggering.   

What does this mean for content providers?   Growth! And undoubtedly the quality and curation of that content will differentiate providers.   Look at the launch of  Apple’s Newstand last week via iOS 5.   Even with Apple’s Appstore “toll” of 30%, magazine publishers rushed to launch their interactive magazine subscriptions on day one.  As an aside, National Geographic, The Daily, Wired and Reader’s Digest were picked as featured U.S. publications inside Newsstand for the Apple launch.   

Additional statistics and forecasts related to Akamai’s network include:
                                                        2006               2011               2016
IP Address access daily:               200 M             600 M             1,620 M
Content delivered daily:                2 PB               50 PB             1,500 PB
Mobile traffic delivered daily:        3 TB               520 TB           91,000 TB
Commerce transactions daily:      $140 M           $550 M           $1,650 M
Peak attack traffic (hacking)         24 Gbps        200 Gbps      1,600 Gbps

This is impressive growth, especially the predictions for mobile growth.  It should also be noted that the increase in dollar value of ecommerce transactions and the “hacking” traffic, point to the critical need for robust security.  It will be more important in time as there will be even more at stake.

As a side note, of Akamai’s 3700 customers, half have mobile optimized websites.   Of the Fortune 50 companies, 40% have mobile optimized websites.   Consumers will not use specific websites on a smartphone if it’s a poor experience.

Jonathan Miller, the Chief Digital Officer, for NewsCorp, gave several interesting presentations.   At one point, he commented on video mobile growth and he offered this interesting perspective, “ Once there is a mobile digital series “hit” the way Angry Birds is a hit, the TV development model will change.”

Tom Leighton, the Chief Scientist for Akamai, gave a live demo of Akamai’s TV Everywhere solution.   TV Everywhere is a solution for cable providers and others, to allow viewing on, for example, a large screen TV, with the ability to pause and continue watching on another device, such as an iPad.

Traditional CDN providers like Akamai, are extending their service offering with features and functionality to facilitate application and multi-platform delivery.   There was much discussion on migrating to the cloud, security, HTML5 and mobile.  
Akamai’s CEO, Paul Sagan, said “The media revolution will not be televised, it will be mobilized”.  Once again, the often repeated theme has to do with mobile and connected device growth.  

Akamai unveiled a new customer portal, which will be released early 1Q12.   The portal is an exciting development as it puts more power and control in the hands of customers for turning up new sites, configurations, being able to set up and monitor live events, etc.   This will reduce reliance on Akamai’s professional services for relatively straightforward configurations.

Jonathan Miller, Chief Digital Officer, of NewsCorp, also mentioned that NewsCorp websites have more hits coming from Social Media than via search.   Miller indicated that NewsCorp is pursuing new opportunities to create value: better targeting, new commerce models and OTT distribution.

Note: OTT or Over-the-Top distribution is a general term for service that you utilize over a network that is not offered by that network operator.  It's often referred to as "over-the-top" because these services ride on top of the service you already get and don't require any business or technology affiliations with your network operator.

Many of the sessions were highly technical having to do with utilizing Akamai’s HD Network for streaming video, video player design, security, and streaming to Android, Apple iOS, Gaming consoles, etc.  

A number of vendors were on-site to discuss and demo their product offerings.   All were Akamai partners including, IBM, Rackspace hosting, Kit Digital, Fry, Terremark, Adobe, BMC Software, Brightcove, Digital Rapids, Elemental, Envivio, Internet Broadcasting, Jive, Ooyala, Origin Digital, Riverbed, Blaze, CSG, Compuware, Cybersource, Exceda, Flexera, Haivision, Harmonic, Hybris Software, Invodo, Kaltura, Motionpoint, Nextstreaming, Onesite, Signiant and Unicorn Media.

All in all, it was time well spent....


  1. I completely agree that the mobile focus is often overlooked with many companies today. The smooth transition of multi-screen display (desktop->phone->tablet) is key to successful end user engagement these days.

  2. Those mobile stats are truly staggering.