Content Delivery at the Edge in 2020
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Peter Chave: Edge compute is kind of an emerging topic. What's interesting about Akamai's network is that it always was an edge network. We've always been very deep on that at the last mile, and so we've had functionality at the edge that you could call edge compute, but we never really labeled it that. We've had a thing called advanced metadata, which is this massive script-engining capability. We can put an awful lot of custom functionality into that, which will then execute literally on that first hop. So in those first few milliseconds from the device leaving to getting, we can then make a lot of real-time decisions about which manifests we're going to serve. And this has been really important in these kinds of network-challenging times to try and filter out requests as early on as possible. So we're not pushing pressure back up even onto the peering network.
So as a developer writing software, especially if you're writing it for media or for IoT or for security, where you put bits of functionality, it's certainly not where I'm going to have everything here in the data center, and then a little bit here. Now I have this almost continuum of compute of how I'm aggregating information or making decisions where I place things. It requires a very different mindset to some of the things we've seen today. So it's great that we're just scratching the surface on some of these new applications.
Tim Siglin: You mentioned the challenging times we're in. Everybody sort of came into 2020 thinking, "I'm running a marathon, doing well in the marathon of video delivery." And suddenly we're asked to do a two-kilometer sprint right in the middle of it. What's the impact, then, on the CDN?
Peter Chave: So if you actually look at the traffic, it was from about the end of February into mid-March and then from, mid-March is when it kicked in. It was basically, as countries started going into lockdown and we started staying in, we literally saw, in a one-month period, a whole year's worth of growth, which was the good news from the CDN side--and I'm sure this is true for both Jim and Neil--is that the even-numbered years are usually big years just because there are so many sports events. So we were gearing up for Olympics. We were gearing up for UAE, and for all of these big events we thought were going to happen in 2020, that didn't actually happen. So there was actually a lot of build-out of capacity. It wasn't like we suddenly hit a wall. We just consumed a lot of the capacity we had planned for later in the year, sooner than we had anticipated. So in that respect the networks held up very well.
Akamai's Peter Chave discusses changes in content delivery traffic brought on by widespread shifts to working from home, distance learning, increased videoconferencing, and the like.
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