40,000 servers, 20% of the world's traffic: Akamai ten years on

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40,000 servers, 20% of the world's traffic: Akamai ten years on

Ten years since its creation, distributed computing platform Akamai now delivers 20 per cent of the world’s internet traffic by request. iTnews talks to Stuart Spiteri about high speed internet delivery around the world.

Whether you’ve heard of Akamai or not, you’ve already used their products. Akamai owns and operates the world’s largest distributed computing platform. On 40,000 servers in 70 countries, it transparently mirrors content from its customer’s servers. Sometimes this content includes media, and sometimes a customer’s whole site.

When a request is made for content on the customer’s site, the request is redirected to an Akamai server close to them, or with a good connection. This leads to faster download times, and provides a route around network congestion or outages.

“The premise was that as the internet grows, and the number of people that use the internet grows, and the number of networks that comprise the internet grows, managing this interconnected network is going to be a challenge for content and application owners,” said Stuart Spiteri, A/Pac director of Akamai.

Akamai now boasts that its distributed computing platform delivers 20 per cent of the world’s internet traffic by request.

Around the world, it provides services for the BBC, the Olympics, eBay, iTunes and more. It boasts some of Australia’s biggest companies as clients, including Fairfax, News Corp, the ABC, Qantas, Jetstar, and most major airlines that fly into Australia.

“In Australia we have 40 locations, mostly around the Eastern seaboard, but also including Broken Hill, Adelaide, Tasmania, Canberra, Darwin and Perth – wherever people are accessing the internet. That’s not uncommon: in Nepal, we have servers in Kathmandu,” said Spiteri.

Akamai also offers an internet acceleration product, which utilises its global network to provide faster access to web content.

“Think of it as a turbo-charge overlay of the internet,” said Spiteri. “We use the same platform to understand the real-time conditions of the internet. We route, optimise and accelerate these around the world. We collect an enormous amount of data about how information is passing through these points. We know where it’s fast, where it’s slow, and more.”

Spiteri gave the example of Aconex, a construction project management company which uses the web to connect project members.

“Their architects, content managers, suppliers and customers are all logging into an enterprise environment for many different reasons. That application is hosted in Melbourne, but we accelerate it globally so that they can run their business. Their site can be richer in content, and it enables them to do it from one location globally.”

Akamai estimates that its acceleration product increases webpage speeds up to 400 per cent.

“We regularly get 2-400 per cent. If you think about what that means for an end user, it’s the difference between four seconds and 16 seconds. End users now have a very high threshold, between three and four seconds. After that time, abandonment kicks in, and people will either call a call centre, go to another website, or choose not to buy at all.”

Internet users in Australia were poised to benefit from Akamai’s networks, said Spiteri.

“Think about how many households there are in Australia – 6 million-ish – with 14 million online users. 2/3 of the country are on the internet. During Q3 2008, we saw 6.73 million unique IP addresses. Akamai is really seeing the bulk of the Australian internet community.”

Spiteri said he supported the Rudd Government’s proposed national broadband network.

“Right around the world, where broadband has taken off, people usually say, ‘that’s the deathbed of Akamai’. But what happens is that end-user expectations rise dramatically. If you have high-speed last mile, end users will keep it on longer, want more rich content and access more web pages. All those put pressure on the content provider. So when high-speed broadband is available, our business expands dramatically.

“We are excited about [the NBN]. We wish it was faster, and we wish it was here sooner. I’d like to see Australia catch up with the world.”
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