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Traffic, mobiles and cyber attacks test Web content delivery: Akamai co-founder

Traffic, mobiles and cyber attacks test Web content delivery: Akamai co-founder

The cloud-based content delivery network recently opened an office in Melbourne.

Increasing Internet congestion, the proliferation mobile devices and heightened security risks are today’s biggest challenges to delivering Web content, according to Akamai Technologies co-founder Tom Leighton.

Akamai, one of the world’s largest cloud-based content delivery network (CDN), this year has expanded its business in Australia where it sees opportunities to help businesses and government tackle these issues.

Akamai opened a Melbourne office earlier this year with 15 employees, and it’s looking at another office in Canberra serving the public sector, said Akamai senior manager of Australasia, Ian Teague. The company is also adding partners in Australia, including cloud provider Helix, he said. Akamai has 150 points-of-presence in Australia, Leighton said.

Leighton told Computerworld Australia that Akamai still has the same mission it had when it was founded in 1998: “Making the Internet experience better for our customers.”

However, specific areas of the business have increased in emphasis, he said. “There’s the ever-increasing need for performance and quality. There’s the proliferation of mobile devices where you now need to make the access and experience be good for a variety of different devices with a variety of different connectivities.”

Security is the fastest growing segment of Akamai’s business, Leighton said. “There are challenges with security where a multitude of bad guys are trying to interrupt that experience to bring a website down, to corrupt the content, to steal personal information or sensitive corporate information.”

Security has long been part of Akamai’s business, “but there wasn’t a lot of interest” except from “customers who had been attacked,” Leighton said. But interest has spiked with the recent rise in the number and sophistication of attacks against major brands and government bodies, he said.

Networks worldwide are facing increasing amounts of Web traffic, Leighton said. More businesses are moving online, there are more web users, and the size of the traffic itself “has increased as Web pages have gotten richer” and as “the quality of video has risen from a few hundred kilobits per second to a few megabits a second.”

Australia hasn’t escaped network congestion problems, even though it has a smaller population than the US and some countries in Asia, Leighton said. “Australia is very spread out and that poses challenges for the network related to latency, peering and cost," he said. “Our services are probably in greater need… here in Australia than in other countries in Asia and across the world.”

The proliferation of smartphones has increased users’ expectations for accessing Web content wirelessly, Leighton said. “When we started the company, there was virtually no Internet traffic over a mobile device,” Leighton said. Now, “pretty much everything is going to mobile except your living-room TV.”

Online businesses have to make content “look nice” and run smoothly based on the capabilities of the user’s device. That’s complicated by the fact there are a plethora of different devices with different operating systems, “and there’s no convergence in sight,” he said. “What works with one device won’t work on another.”

Cellular networks can be a “bottleneck” to delivering Web content wirelessly, Leighton said. “There’s very limited bandwidth coming out of the towers, and in some cases into the tower,” he said. 4G network technologies will “increase the capacity by an order of magnitude, but we need a lot more than that to really accommodate all the uses that people want to put on cellular communications.”

Akamai is an advocate of moving to IPv6 and co-sponsored the World IPv6 Day. “We’re at the very beginning” of a likely 10-year migration to IPv6, said Leighton. “There’s a lot of software and devices out there that are only capable of doing v4, and it’s going to take a long time for them to disappear.”

Internet web traffic over IPv6 globally is only about one-third of 1 per cent, he said. Akamai provides a service that makes Web apps compliant with IPv6, but has seen “relatively low adoption of that service,” he said. “There’s just not been a lot of interest except in parts of Asia.”

Leighton said “do it yourself” is Akamai’s main competitor. Many businesses that call themselves cloud companies are only “hosting in shared environments,” he said. But Akamai is “in thousands of locations around the world, not a dozen or two data centres,” he said. “That means we are close to all the end users… where all the bandwidth is.

“The worst place in the world to serve content from is the data centre, which is where everybody does it,” he said. “The easiest place in the world for an attacker to take you down is the data centre.”

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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