Spotlight – Akamai: Pioneer in CDN

Akamai was recently in the news for acquisitions of Blaze Software Inc. as well as Cotendo Inc. Akamai has done it again with yesterday’s acquisition of FastSoft Inc., a provider of content acceleration software.  The acquisition is expected to enhance Akamai’s cloud infrastructure solutions with technology for optimizing the throughput of video and other digital content across IP networks.

This article talks about Content Delivery Networks in general, Akamai, and its recent acquisitions.

Overview of Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Today the internet has about 77 TBps of global capacity.  As the internet grows bigger the number of Internet Exchange Points (IXP) across the world has increased from 50 in 2000 to over 350 in 2012. Today, when a person requests a video stream, or an internet download, the data is sent through a content delivery network, and it doesn’t need to travel as far as would be the case if the data was sent directly from the source server to the user.  As a result, the user gets better quality of service, and server load is also reduced as the data is cached over the content delivery network. Over 45 per cent of web traffic today is delivered over CDNs.

Conceptually, a delivery network is a virtual network built as a software layer over the actual internet, deployed on widely distributed hardware, and tailored to meet the specific system requirements of distributed applications and services.  A delivery network provides enhanced reliability, performance, scalability and security that is not achievable by directly utilizing the underlying Internet.  A CDN, in the traditional sense of delivering static Web content, is one type of delivery network.  Today CDN encompasses dynamic content as well.

Overview of Akamai

Akamai, launched in early 1999, is the pioneer in Content Delivery Networks.  The company evolved out of an MIT research effort to solve the flash crowd problem.  It provided CDN solutions to help businesses overcome content delivery hurdles.  Since then, both the Web and the Akamai platform have evolved tremendously.  In the early years, Akamai delivered only Web objects (images and documents).  It has since evolved to distribute dynamically generated pages and even applications to the network’s edge, providing customers with on-demand bandwidth and computing capacity.

Today, Akamai delivers 15-20% of all Web traffic worldwide and provides a broad range of commercial services beyond content delivery, including Web and IP application acceleration, EdgeComputing™, delivery of live and on-demand high-definition (HD) media, high-availability storage, analytics, and authoritative DNS services.  Comprising more than 61,000 servers located across nearly 1,000 networks in 70 countries worldwide, the Akamai platform delivers hundreds of billions of Internet interactions daily, helping thousands of enterprises boost the performance and reliability of their Internet applications.

Akamai Acquisitions

The following list shows some of the Akamai acquisitions over its history.

  • June 2005, Akamai acquired Speedera Networks valued at $130 million.
  • November 2006, Akamai acquired Nine Systems Corporation valued at $164 million.
  • March 2007, Akamai acquired Netli valued at $154 million.
  • April 2007, Akamai acquired Red Swoosh valued at $15 million.
  • November 2008, Akamai acquired aCerno valued at $90.8 million
  • June 2010, Akamai acquired Velocitude LLC valued at $12 million.
  • February, 2012, Akamai acquired Blaze Software Inc. a provider of front-end      optimization (FEO) technology.
  • March 2012, Akamai acquired Cotendo, valued at $268 million, that offers an      integrated suite of web and mobile acceleration services.
  • September 13, 2012, Akamai acquired FastSoft Inc., provider of content acceleration      software.

The latest acquisition of Akamai is FastSoft Inc. which was launched in 2006 to commercialize network optimization technology.  FastSoft’s patented FastTCP algorithms improve Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), adding intelligence designed to increase the speed of dynamic page views and file transfer downloads while reducing the effects of network latency and packet loss.  FastSoft’s unique technology has helped improve website and web application performance across the first and last miles, as well as through the cloud, without requiring client software or browser plug-ins.  Combining FastSoft with Akamai’s existing network protocols is expected to help enable Akamai to optimize server capacity, deliver higher throughput for video, and bring greater efficiency to its global platform.

If we focus on the 2012 acquisitions of Blaze, Cotendo and now FastSoft, they are indicative of a trend towards providing end-to-end acceleration for an entire leg of the transaction.  With the current proliferation of mobile devices and users accessing internet over mobile devices, Akamai is also targeting various performance improvements and network services to deliver content to these users with lower latency and better security than has previously been available.

Compuware’s Gomez platform is well-known technology to measure the performance of Web applications.  According to Gomez benchmarks, it takes a mobile Web site from 7.7 to 8 seconds to open, versus 2 seconds on a desktop computer, says Pedro Santos, VP of the Mobile Business at Akamai.

“So there is a tremendous opportunity to improve the performance of mobile web sites and applications,” he says, citing user surveys that 71% of consumers expect Web sites to open on a mobile phone as quickly as they do on a desktop computer, and that 77% of organizations today have mobile web pages that take longer than 5 seconds on average to open.

Akamai’s new products like Terra Alta and Aqua Mobile Accelerator also substantiate this trend.

It will be interesting to study the strategic response from Akamai’s competitors like Limelight networks.


  • Network computing, “Akamai Boosts Web, Mobile App Performance”
  •, “Akamai Acquires FastSoft”
  • Gigaom, “The shape of Internet has changed. It now lives life on the edge”

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