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Speeding Up the Internet: Algorithms Guru and Akamai Founder Tom Leighton (Part 7)

Posted on Tuesday, Oct 23rd 2007

SM: This is a really big problem. How close to the last mile can you get? You are going to need millions of servers to cover the world.

TL: I don’t think so. The way we think, a server can serve a gigabit a second. It is pretty economical. If you look at TV quality, you can support 500 viewers off a Gigabit a second. If you have a TV audience of 50 million, that is 100,000 servers. That is where you will probably see us, in that ball park. That is a lot for a company getting started, but Akamai is going to be growing at the same level we have been growing without any big change. We will be able to accommodate that growth. The key for us is that we have the technology and the network partnerships to place those servers where they need to be. We are in the core data centers as well, but that is just a fraction of the service. Having servers at the last mile is where the real power is.

SM: Your Capex and Opex for expansion is in these servers, not in acquiring bandwidth.

TL: Capex would be the cost of the servers, yes. With bandwidth, sometimes we pay for transit. Often we don’t, because we are providing such a benefit for the ISPs by optimizing their traffic. So that would not be a big expense. Our goal is to make the cost so low, we can pass on the low cost to our customers. We have a very good track record of decreasing costs to our customers over time.

SM: What is the profile of a server that qualifies to be an Akamai server?

TL: It is commodity hardware and there are multiple vendors which supply them.

SM: There is no magic in the hardware itself, the magic is in the software?

TL: Exactly.

SM: Akamai has the media place really nicely locked up. Anybody doing consumer facing media needs to use your service in some form or another. That market is going very well and is exploding from a bandwidth requirement point of view as well as from an optimization requirement point of view. Where are you expanding beyond this content delivery service?

TL: First, for many years now we have moved beyond just delivering content, but rather towards accelerating applications. You are running search on a site, you are buying something, you are handling customers, or you have a corridor of some kind. These are applications that are personalized, dynamic and non-cacheable. Quite possibly secure over SSL. We built services that make those run a lot faster and more reliably, especially on a global scale.

This segment is part 7 in the series : Speeding Up the Internet: Algorithms Guru and Akamai Founder Tom Leighton
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