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Akamai-Speedera: The Industry Responds

The recent announcement of Akamai’s acquisition of Speedera ends one era in the Content Delivery Network (CDN) industry, but opens the door to increased competition, especially in the streaming market.

The Akamai-Speedera relationship, prior to the recent announcement, was marked by animosity between the two companies, including lawsuits, and an intensive "anti-Akamai" marketing campaign by Speedera.

Interviews with industry leaders regarding the Akamai-Speedera announcement yielded a variety of interpretations of the deal. The general feeling among streaming-only service providers is that the Akamai-Speedera deal will not significantly impact the business models of streaming service providers. Todd Loewenstein, CEO of ArcoStream, sees the consolidation as a natural step in the growth of the industry, but not a threat to smaller providers like his company.

"We find that our customers have specific technical needs that our services meet," Loewenstein said. "They are also looking for the personalized service that is a hallmark of our company." Loewenstein and others also agree that the streaming service-provider business has picked up considerably in the past 18 months, due in large part to increased interest from the education and corporate markets.

But at least one large player in the CDN space does expect to see significant impact from the Akamai-Speedera deal. Mirror Image, a CDN whose engineering model focuses on a centralized network solution rather than Akamai’s distributed edge-network approach, has seen sustained interest in the weeks since the announcement from customers who are looking for an alternative to Akamai.

"Our intent is not to be the anti-Akamai that Speedera was," says Richard Buck, Mirror Image's vice president of engineering. "We offer a distinctively different technical approach that has allowed us to offer an an alternative to Akamai and Speedera in the past —and will continue to allow us to offer an alternative as the global CDN market consolidates."

Buck went on to say that, while the company is seeing sustained interest and has seen a few customers move to Mirror Image in the past two weeks, he doesn’t expect another company to don the mantle of Speedera’s foil to Akamai anytime soon. "We think the Akamai-Speedera deal will be the last of the distributed edge networks, since we question the cost-benefit analysis of any new entrant into the CDN space building out a 2,000-unit edge network. It’s much more cost-effective to build a scalable, centralized model (like) we use."

The global CDN industry, according to Buck, views streaming-only service providers as complementary collaborators rather than competition. "The small streaming service providers are very good at what they do, and several of these providers—who were struggling two years ago—are now on solid financial footing, thanks in part to an increase in demand for streaming services," Buck said. "At the same time, we don’t expect any of these streaming service providers to enter the global CDN space. Many of those providers ride on other companies’ transport infrastructure, so the cost of moving from streaming-only service to CDN service would be highly prohibitive."

For Akamai, the Speedera deal yields several initial benefits, shoring up its already impressive customer base, technology and standing in the financial markets. Time will tell, however, if Speedera’s "anti-Akamai" message continues to resonate with its customers now that it is part of the company it worked so hard to differentiate itself from. During the conference call announcing the acquisition, Akamai president Paul Sagan acknowledged that possibility, saying he expected some loss of Speedera customers, but attributes that not on animosity towards Akamai but on customers who will want to keep contracts with multiple vendors.

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