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Stream This: Application Delivery: Akamai's Secret Weapon?

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So, what kinds of content can take advantage of application delivery? Enterprise employees will find that many web applications they use on a daily basis can make use of the service, including expense management systems such as Oracle, contact management systems such as Siebel and Salesforce.com, learning management systems, and even web-based email. Many industry-specific applications can also utilize application delivery, including ad-campaign management tools such as DoubleClick DART, supplier/distributor inventory management applications, and project management software such as Autodesk.

In addition, consumers are heavy users of many web applications that can employ the service, including online commerce sites, tax sites such as HRBlock.com, travel-booking sites such as Expedia.com, and sites that allow visitors to post user-generated media for online photo- and video-sharing. Akamai’s application acceleration technology also works with a wide range of application architectures, including service oriented architecture applications where communication is done machine-to-machine with no browser rendering, and Web 2.0 AJAX/FLEX class applications.

Money Issues
People also constantly ask me about how Akamai’s application delivery service is priced and what it costs. I don’t yet know the cost because I need to collect more data from customers before I can talk real numbers. But I do know that users are charged on a monthly-subscription-per-functional-application basis and that, as Akamai stated, most of the company’s application delivery contracts are 24 months in length and include performance service-level agreements.

Conclusion
Some will say that hardware- and software-based application delivery products such as those offered by Cisco, Citrix Systems, Inc., and Juniper Networks, Inc. will be able to compete with Akamai for those who want to deploy it themselves. For a small percentage of customers, that is true, just like it is for those who may want to do their own video hosting or content delivery. But for the majority of customers who need application delivery, it isn’t practical or (in most cases) even possible to put an appliance close to every location where an employee, business partner, or customer can access a web browser. By controlling both ends of the network (both near the data center and near application users), Akamai is providing optimizations to improve application availability and response times that extend far beyond those limited to a footprint within a data center.

If there was one thing I walked away with from this meeting, it is that Akamai is laser-focused on customers who have business problems, need to apply their own business rules around their content, need very detailed analytics, need geographic reach, need multiple services, and are trying to solve the entire ecosystem problem from creation to distribution. I didn't see or hear anything that gives me any reason to think that they are losing market share. They have some competition for video delivery, but most of those competitors are still very small and don't have a wide product portfolio. And when it comes to doing more than just pushing video bits, Akamai clearly has a handle on the market and, more importantly, the solutions customers will need a few quarters from now.

[Note: Since another version of this post first appeared on my Business of Online Video blog (http://blog./streamingmedia.com), I’ve been asked several times about my visit to Akamai and my coverage of CDNs in general. Akamai did not pay for my trip to Cambridge; I paid for my own plane ticket. And no, Akamai did not see the blog post before it went live and have to "approve it," as some are asking. Finally, as I have said before, I have never bought, sold, or traded any stock in ANY public company, ever.]

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