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Intelligent network lets Akamai deliver content ASAP

Fri, 11/30/2001 - 7:00pm
Duffy Hayes

Google Factor: 8,110

Though the Internet bubble has definitely burst, the Web is still growing. Too fast for its own good perhaps. And the push to add broadband technologies and content are putting stress on an already strained public network.

Which is why the distributed delivery technology from content delivery network Akamai Technologies is as important as ever to the future of broadband.

What began as a kernel of an idea from Internet visionary Tim Berners-Lee developed into mathematics-based technology in 1999 at MIT. Akamai's core technology aims to deliver higher-bandwidth content by distributing Web page content among a worldwide network of intelligent caching servers.

In essence, an Akamai customer "tags" the bandwidth-hungry portions of their Web site (things like banner ads, graphics, and audio or video files that can bring delivery times down to a trickle), and Akamai stores those high bandwidth items on its global network of caching servers. When a user calls up a customer page, Akamai routes the request to the server that is best able to deliver the requested content, avoiding areas on the network where congestion would make delivery slow if not impossible. With Akamai hosting and delivering the most bandwidth-intensive elements of a Web page, the customer can focus on delivering quickly-changing news or information, while the sexier "Akamaized" elements can be left to Akamai to deliver. It means less hosting and serving costs for the Akamai customer, and less worry that a Web site will deliver when user requests are at their peak.

Since its creation in 1999, the company has created a globally distributed network of more than 13,000 servers, deployed in 954 networks in 63 countries. It has deployment in all tier-one networks around the world, and has extensive reach into the world's broadband-enabled networks, including partnerships with RBOCs, cable MSOs and satellite providers around the world.

Companies with an abundance of "Akamaized" content will see two big advantages in today's constrained Internet delivery market. First, Akamai can speed up content transmission in a significant way. Second, customers save money by reducing hardware requirements, as Akamai ends up hosting the hungriest Web content. And as a business model in general, Akamai's future seems assured, as its success hinges on whether companies will increase their bandwidth usage over time. Does anyone doubt that will happen?

Direct Effect

The tragic events of September 11 affected Akamai more directly than most. From a business standpoint, the crush of user demands on news and information Web sites had many news providers frantically calling Akamai to get connected to the service on short notice. Sites like MSNBC.com, CNN.com, and ABCnews.com shifted much of their content to Akamai's network to handle the extra demand.

From a personal perspective, Sept. 11 hit Akamai hard. Its CTO and co-founder, Daniel Lewin was a passenger on the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 that crashed into the World Trade Center.

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