Akamai Offers Situational Approach to Addressing Challenges Raised by Complex Internet Trends
Akamai Offers Situational Approach to AddressingChallenges Raised by Complex Internet TrendsTranscript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on the inadequacy of the old one-size-ﬁts-all approach todelivering web content on different devices and different networks.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: Akamai Technologies Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and youre listening to BrieﬁngsDirect. Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on the new realities of delivering applications and content in the cloud and mobile era. Well examine how the many variables of modern Internet usage demand a more situational capability among and between enterprises, clouds, and the many popular end devices.That is, major trends have conspired to make inadequate a one-size-ﬁts-all approach to today’scomplex network optimization and applications performance demands. Rather, more webexperiences now need a more real-time and dynamic response tailored and reﬁned to the actualuse and speciﬁcs of that user’s task.Were here with an executive from Akamai Technologies to spotlight the trends leading to thisnew dynamic cloud to mobile network reality and to evaluate ways to make all web experiencesremain valued, appropriate, and performant.With that, please join me now in welcoming our guest. Were here with Mike Afergan. He is theSenior Vice President and General Manager of the Web Experience Business Unit at AkamaiTechnologies in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Welcome back, Mike.Michael Afergan: Hi. Thanks, Dana.Gardner: There are these trends that seem to be spurring a different web, a need for a differenttype of response, given the way that people are using the web differently. Let’s start at the top.What are the trends, and what do you mean by a situational response to ameliorating this newlevel of complexity?Afergan: There are a number of trends, and Ill highlight a few. There’s clearly been a signiﬁcantchange, and you and I see it in our daily lives in how we, as consumers and employees, interactwith this thing that we call the web.Only a few years ago, most of us interacted with the web by sitting in front of the PC, typing ona keyboard and with a mouse. Today, a large chunk, if not a majority, of our interaction with the
Afergan: There are some trends in which the more things change, the more they stay the same.The way the Internet works fundamentally hasn’t changed. The Internet is still, to use theterminology from over a decade ago, a network of networks. The way that data travels across theInternet behind the scenes is by moving through different networks. Each of those has differentoperating principles in terms of how they run, and there are always challenges moving from onenetwork to another.This is why, from the beginning, Akamai has always had a strategy of deploying our services andour servers as close to the users as possible. This is so that, when you and I make a request to awebsite, it doesnt have to traverse multiple networks, but rather is served from an Akamailocation as close as possible to you.And even when you have to go all the way across the Internet, for example, to buy somethingand submit a credit card, were ﬁnding an intelligent path across the network. Thats always beentrue at the physical network layer, but as you point out, this notion of networks is being expandedfor content providers, websites, and retailers. Think about the set of companies that they workwith and the other third parties that they work with almost as a network, as an ecosystem, thatreally comes together to develop and ultimately create the content that you and I see.This notion of having these third party application programming interfaces (APIs) in the cloud isa very powerful trend for enterprises that are building websites, but it also obviously creates anumber of challenges, both technical and operational, in making sure that you have a reliable,scalable, high-performing web experience for your users.Big dataGardner: I suppose another big trend nowadays -- weve mentioned mobile and cloud -- is thisnotion of analytics, big data, trying to be more intelligent, a word you used a moment ago. Isthere something about the way that the web has evolved thats going to allow for more gatheringof information about whats actually taking place on the networks and these end devices and thentherefore be able to better serve up or produce value as time goes on?Is the intelligence something that we can measure. Is there a data aspect to this that comes intothat situational beneﬁt path?Afergan: One of the big challenges in this world of different web experience and situations is agreater demand for that type of information. Before, typically, a user was on a PC, using one of afew different types of browsers.Now, with all these different situations, the need for that intelligence, the need to understand thesituation that your user is in, and potentially the changing situation that your user is in as theymove from one location to another or one device to another is even more important than it was afew years ago.
Thats going to be an important trend of understating the situations. Being able to adapt to themdynamically and efﬁciently is going to be an important trend for the industry in the next fewyears.Gardner: What does this mean for enterprises? If Im a company and I recognize that myemployees are going to want more variety and more choice on their devices, I have to deliverapps out to those devices. I also have to recognize that they dont stop working at ﬁve. Therefore,our opportunity for delivering applications and data isnt time-based. Its more of a situational-based demand as well.I don’t think enterprises want to start building out these network capabilities as well as data andintelligence gathering. So what does it mean for enterprises, as they move towards this differentera of the web, and how should they think about responding?Afergan: You nailed it with that question. Obviously one of the big trends in the industry rightnow, in the enterprise industry, bring your own device (BYOD). You and I and lots of peoplelistening to this probably see it on a daily basis as we work.In front of me right now are two different devices that I own and brought into the ofﬁce today.Lots of my colleagues do the same. We see that as a big trend across our customer base.More and more employees are bringing their increasingly powerful devices into the ofﬁce. Moreand more employees want to be able to access their content in the ofﬁce via those devices and athome or on the go, on a business trip, over those exact same devices, the way weve becomeaccustomed to for our personal information and our personal experiences online.Key trendsSo the exact same trend that you think about being relevant for consumer-facing websites --multiple devices, cellular connectivity -- are really key trends that are being driven from theoutside-in, from the employees into the enterprise right now. It’s a challenge for enterprise to beable to keep up. It’s a challenge for enterprises to be able to adapt to those technologies, just likeit is for consumer websites.But for the enterprise, you need to make sure that you are mindful of security, authentication, anda variety of other principles, which are obviously important once you are dealing with enterprisedata.There’s tremendous opportunity. It is a great trend for enterprises, in terms of empowering theiremployees, empowering their partners, decreasing the total cost of ownership for the devices,and for their users to have access to the information. But it obviously presents some verysigniﬁcant trends and challenges. Number one, obviously, is keeping up with those trends, butnumber two, doing it in a way that’s both authenticated and secure at the same time.
Gardner: Based on a lot of the analyst reports that were seeing, the adoption of cloud servicesand software-as-a-service (SaaS) services by enterprises is expected to grow quite rapidly in thecoming years. If Im an enterprise, whether Im serving up data and applications to myemployees, my business partners, and/or end consumers, it doesn’t seem to make sense to getcloud services, bring them into the enterprise, and then send them back out through a network tothose people. It sounds like this is moving from a data center that I control type of a service intosomething that’s in the cloud itself as well.So are we reading that correctly -- that even your bread and butter, Global 2000 enterprise has tostart thinking about network services in this context of a situational web?Afergan: Exactly. The good news is that most thoughtful enterprises are already doing that. Itdoesn’t make it easier overnight, but theyre already having those conversations. Youre exactlyright. Once you recognize the fact that your employees, your partners are going to want tointeract with these applications on their devices, wherever they may be, you pretty quicklyrealize that you can’t build out a dedicated network, a dedicated infrastructure, that’s going toservice them in all the locations that they are going to need to be.All of a sudden, youre now talking about putting those applications into the cloud, so that thoseusers can access them on any device, anywhere, anytime. At that point in time, youre nowbuilding to a cloud architecture, which obviously brings a lot of promise and a lot of opportunity,but then some challenges associated with it.Gardner: Ill just add one more point on the enterprise, because I track enterprise IT issues morespeciﬁcally than the general web. IT service management, service level agreements (SLAs),governance policy and management via rules that can be repeatable are all very important to ITas well.Is there something about a situational network and web delivery that comes to play when itrelates to governance policy and management vis-à-vis rules, I guess what youd call service-delivery architecture?Situational needsAfergan: That’s a great question, and Ive had that conversation with several enterprises. Tosome degree, every enterprise is different and every application is somewhat different, whicheven makes the situational point you are making all the more true.For some enterprises, the requirements they have around those applications are ubiquitous andthose need to be held true independent of the situation. In other cases, you have certainrequirements around certain applications that may be different if the employee is on premises,within your VPN, in your country, or out of the country. All of a sudden, those situations becameall the more complicated.
As each of these enterprises that we have been working with think through the challenges thatyou just listed, its very much a situational conversation. How do you build one architecture thatallows you to adapt to those different situations?Gardner: I think we have described the problem fairly well. Its understood. What do we startthinking about when it comes to solving this problem? How can we get a handle on thesedifferent types of trafﬁc with complexity and variability on the delivery end, on the network end,and then on the receiving end, and somehow make it rational and something that could be abeneﬁt to our business?Afergan: Its obviously the challenge that we at Akamai spend a lot of time thinking about andworking with our customers on. Obviously, theres no one, simple answer to all of that, but Illoffer a couple of different pieces.We believe it requires starting with a good overall, fundamentally sound architecture. Thats anarchitecture that is globally distributed and gives you a platform where you dont have to -- toanswer some of your earlier questions -- worry about some of the different networks along theway, and worry about some of the core, fundamental Internet challenges that really haventchanged since the mid-90s in terms of reliability and performance of the core Internet.But then it should allow you to build on top of that for some of the cloud-based and situational-based challenges that you have today. That requires a variety of technologies that will, numberone, address, and number two, adapt to situations that youre talking about.Lets go through a couple of the examples that weve already spoken about on this call. If yourean enterprise worrying about your user on a cellular connection in Hong Kong, versus youre thesame enterprise worrying about the same application for a user on a desktop ﬁxed connectionbased in New York City, the performance challenges and the performance optimizations that youwant to make are going to be fundamentally different.There is a core set of things that you need to have in place in all those cases. You need to have anintelligent platform thats going to understand the situation and make an appropriate decisionbased on that situation. This will include a variety of technical variables, as well as just a generalunderstanding of what the end user is trying to do.Gardner: It seems like it wasnt that long ago, Mike, that people said, "I just want to makethings 50 percent faster. I want to make my website speedier." But thats almost an obsoletequestion. Its more, "How do I make a speciﬁc circumstance perform in a speciﬁc way for aspeciﬁc user and that might change in ﬁve minutes?"So how do we rethink moving from fatter pipes and faster websites to these new requirements? Isthis a cultural shift? Is it moving from a two-dimensional to a three-dimensional picture? How dowe create a metaphor or analogy to better understand the difference and the type of problem weneed to solve?
Complicated problemAfergan: Again, its a complicated problem. Start again with the good news that the reasonwere having this problem is that there are these powerful situations and powerful opportunitiesfor enterprises, but the smart enterprises were working with are asking a couple of differentquestions.First, there is a myriad of situations, but typically you can think about some of them that are themost important to you to start off with.The second thing that enterprises are doing thoughtfully is rethinking how you even doperformance measurement. You just gave a great example. Before, you could talk about how do Imake this experience 50 percent faster, and that was a ﬁne conversation.Now, smart enterprises are saying, "Tell me about the performance of my users in Hong Kongover cellular connections. Tell me about the performance of my users in New York City overﬁxed connections." Then its understanding the different dimensions and different variables thatare important for you and then measuring performance based on those variables.I work with several thoughtful enterprises that are going through that transformation of movingfrom a one-size-ﬁts-all performance measurement metric to being a lot more thoughtful aboutwhat metrics they care about. Exactly as weve talked about, and exactly as you mentioned, thatone-size-ﬁts-all metric is becoming less relevant by the day.Gardner: And as we have more moving parts, we perhaps could think about it as a need for aSwiss Army Knife of some sort, where multiple tools can be brought out quickly and applied towhats needed. But that needs to be something thats coordinated, not just by the enterprise, theInternet service provider (ISP), the networks, or the cloud providers, but all of them. Gettingthem to line up, or having one throat to choke, if you will, has always been a challenge.Is there something now, or is there something about Akamai in particular, that gets you in aneutrality? We mentioned the Swiss Army Knife. Is there some ability for you to get in and beamong and in a positive value development relationship with all of these players that perhaps iswhat we are starting to get to when we think about the situational beneﬁt?Afergan: Its obviously something we spend a lot of time thinking about here. In general, notjust speaking about Akamai for the moment, to be successful here, you need to have a few things.You need to have an underlying architecture that allows you to operate across a variety of theparties you mentioned.For example, we talked about a variety of networks, a variety of ISPs. You need to have onearchitecture that allows you to operate across all of them. You cant go and build differentarchitecture and different solution ISP by ISP, network by network, or country by country.
For some of our customers its, "Wait a minute. Now, I have all these different experiences. Eachone of these is a great opportunity for my business. Each one of these is a great opportunity forme to drive revenue. But each one of these is now a security vulnerability for my business, and Ihave to make sure that I secure it."Each enterprise is addressing these in a slightly different way, but I think the key point isunderstanding that the web really has moved from basic websites to these much moresophisticated web experiences.Varied experiences The web experiences are varied across different situations and overall web performance is akey on-ramp. Mobility is another key on-ramp that you, and security would be a third initialstarting point. Some of our customers are trying to take a very complicated problem and look atit through a much more manageable lens, so they can start moving in the right direction.Gardner: I am afraid we will have to leave it there. Weve been discussing how most cloudexperiences now need a more real-time and dynamic response, perhaps tailored and reﬁned to theactual use and speciﬁcs of a user’s task at hand. And weve heard about how a more situationalcapability that takes into account many variables at an enterprise, cloud, and network level, andthen of course across these end devices that are now much more diverse and distributed, all cometogether for a new kind of value.Id like to thank our guest. Weve been here with Mike Afergan, the Senior Vice President andGeneral Manager of the Web Experience Business Unit at Akamai Technologies.Thank you so much, Mike.Afergan: Thanks, Dana. I really appreciated the time.Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. A big thank you alsoto our audience for listening, and don’t forget to come back next time. Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: Akamai TechnologiesTranscript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on the inadequacy of the old one-size-ﬁts-all approach todelivering web content on different devices and different networks. Copyright InterarborSolutions, LLC, 2005-2012. All rights reserved.You may also be interested in: • Akamai Stepping up from CDN to the Cloud • Akamai Seeks Larger Role in Chinas Web Security
• As Cloud and Mobile Trends Drive User Expectations Higher, Notworks Must Now Deliver Applications Faster, Safer, Cheaper• Transcript of BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on Media Delivery with Akamai CTO Mike Afergan• Focusing on Applications Key to Enabling Strong Security in Emerging Cloud Models