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Speeding Up the Internet: Algorithms Guru and Akamai Founder Tom Leighton (Part 6)

Posted on Monday, Oct 22nd 2007

SM: So, you are saying that centralized data centers have higher latency, and thus lower throughput, and that prevents TV quality video or higher, making the video-on-demand experience unsatisfactory. Is there an example of this you could give? I think it would be helpful to illustrate the point.

TL: We have a great case study we did with, probably, the world’s largest media company in Japan. They were comparing us to our largest competitor for video delivery. In this case, our competitor was charging a lower price and this company wanted to know why they should pay more for our solution to deliver video.

Their thinking was that it does not matter where in the world the video comes from as long as they can deliver it. We suggested they do a trial so they could see how long it takes Akamai to deliver a 2 hour DVD versus how long it takes the competitor. They did the trial, and it took Akamai well under an hour, on the order of 10’s of minutes. It took the competitor 8 hours.

When it takes 8 hours to deliver a 2 hour DVD, you are not on-demand any more. You are now waiting over night for your video.

With Akamai you are on-demand. You can start playing that DVD and the DVD is going to come in faster than you are viewing and there will be no interruption. On demand viewing is a lot better than overnight 🙂

Anyway, they are now an Akamai customer. The reason we can offer this kind of throughput is because wherever the viewers are, we are in their city, pretty much within 100 miles and we can deliver incredibly high throughput. The other guys are not there, they are in the core data centers. Never mind hitting the congestions wall, which is going to happen as video grows, they just can’t get the throughout because of where they are in the topology.

SM: I was talking to one of your customers, Nick Rockwell over at MTV, and I was actually asking him about what the open problems that this massive scaling of video has caused that they are dealing with. One of the points that Mick raised was the whole issue of variable bit rates, especially in the last mile. If I am downloading a video, and someone else next door starts downloading a big video, I don’t get as much bandwidth as I was getting if I were the only one downloading. They don’t have a good idea how to handle things like that yet.

TL: That is absolutely the point I am on about congestion in the middle mile. As you move farther away from the last mile you get aggregated. Everybody tries to watch their movie, and you are not sharing it near the last mile, you are going to swamp out the connection in the middle mile. That is the problem. That is why Akamai is placing it’s servers so close to end users. If you have the server in the last mile network, you and your neighbor can watch the movie at the same time.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Speeding Up the Internet: Algorithms Guru and Akamai Founder Tom Leighton
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