Akamai plans enterprise delivery

In the midst of a bruising battle with upstart rivals in the content delivery network arena, Akamai Technologies plans to go on the offensive with a raft of offerings aimed at enterprise customers.

Akamai later this year plans to make available an offering based on its technology that will allow corporate customers to run their own content delivery networks using Akamai technology, said Akamai chief scientist Tom Leighton.

"We're going to package everything that we're doing on the Internet into a product that we're going to sell to enterprises so they can create their own behind-the-firewall content and application delivery system," Leighton said.

In addition to this effort, Akamai plans to offer an extranet service that places servers managed by Akamai at the edge of the enterprise.

"We'll take our edge servers and place them just outside the firewall for an enterprise and its business partners," Leighton said. "We're going to pin content there on behalf of the enterprise and its business partners to support b-to-b [business-to-business] communications and commerce."

Another element of the plan to target enterprise customers will also allow customers to leverage Web services along with J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) and Microsoft.Net application frameworks to run business logic on Akamai servers.

"We're in beta next quarter with edge computing, on the basis of Edge Java," Leighton said. "Later this year we'll be in beta with .Net at the edge."

The one-time undisputed king of content delivery networks is increasingly finding itself locked in a fierce competitive struggle with rival companies such as Speedera Networks Inc. and Mirror Image Internet Inc.

Speedera in particular has been successful in luring customers such as Playboy.com Inc., iFilm Corp., Bank of America Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. into its fold by leveraging caching and push technology together in order to lower streaming media costs.

Speedera plans to follow up that effort this spring by adding a layer of security technology that will essentially shield customers from denial-of-service attacks, company officials said.

Due to the hefty bandwidth requirements for video and audio content delivery, the use of CDNs (content delivery networks) for streaming media is growing rapidly, according to Greg Howard, principal analyst and founder at the HTRC Group LLC, in San Andreas, Calif.

"Streaming media makes perfect sense with CDNs. There have always been latency problems and performance issues associated with delivering streaming media. But to deliver streaming through CDN is not cheap, you will have to pay for performance," he said.

In addition, as enterprise use of streaming media content grows, security and authentication of streaming services will become essential, Howard said.

"If you have some very popular content and are paying for performance streaming, then you really only want your customers to look at it. If it is out in the open you will end up with a large bandwidth bill for that content," Howard said. "Secure streaming ensures not only quality and control but that you are only paying for the people you have authorized to view it."

Meanwhile, Mirror Image has signaled its intent to add Web services support to its offering as part of an effort to help eliminate the issue of latency sensitivity that today limits the deployment of applications using Web services.

Using CDNs to serve up Web services has definite value and will emerge over time, said analyst Peter Christy, co-founder of NetsEdge Research Group, in Los Altos, Calif.

"One of the problems when you provide these Web services is how do I scale it and where does it need to run to be useful to the people who need to consume it," he said. "A [CDN] is a rich set of resources for doing that."

Competition across the entire CDN space has heated up in the past year, as the traditional CDN model has reached maturity and newer innovations start to surface.

"Competition is growing in a number of different areas, not only from CDN players but also from competing and synergistic technologies, such as route control technology," Howard said.

Route control technology, from vendors such as RouteScience Technologies Inc., Sockeye Networks Inc., and NetVmg Inc., is designed to speed Web content delivery by making intelligent delivery decisions based on route performance and cost metrics.

Some observers are eyeing route control systems as a replacement for CDN technology because it removes the complex process of tagging Web site content, which is required by CDNs, Howard said.

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