Akamai CTO discusses the business-oriented platform approach to Internet media delivery

There are many different challenges to realizing online businesses. I talked about pay-for content, for example, or ad-supported content or syndication. The business models themselves are complicated. Realizing them requires overcoming several technical obstacles. Delivery is obviously a big challenge. Another is: How do you deliver the increasingly high-definition video streams, asynchronous transactions, and lots of small images on a user-generated site? How do you deliver all of this content in a reliable, scalable way? These companies are evolving; they are facing many challenges, both fortunately and unfortunately, in a number of different areas. The real key theme is the logic and the tools it takes to enable that online business and the sophisticated business logic required to have such an online business.

Read a transcript of the podcast.

The demands on the Internet have never been higher, with massive files of high-definition video, enterprise applications, online distribution of most software products, and the increasing uploading of "user-generated content" filling up the pipes.

Yet the challenge to Internet delivery is not just in the packets' performance. The winning formula for online businesses also demands a business platform, from generating metrics to managing advertising to fulfilling subscriptions -- a unified platform approach to the business of Internet media delivery is emerging.

Those requiring such a platform of services form an expanding breed: From large software vendors such as Microsoft to Web 2.0 startups, to global media empires that are staking their futures on the Web -- all need common business network services.

To help better understand the challenges and opportunities of this newest wave in Internet media support, join me in a podcast discussion with Mike Afergan, CTO of Akamai Technologies. Here are some excerpts from the discussion:

Clearly our customers, just like Akamai, have evolved significantly over the past several years. One of the exciting things for us is to work with these customers on their future projects. So often we’re in situations with our customers thinking about what they’re going to be doing a year or even five years out from the current timeframe. It is exciting for us to see these trends and to hopefully be out in front of these trends by the time they actually are relevant and required as we build up trusted relationships across the industry.

Online businesses are really the key that is driving what our customers are building -- not just putting content online, but putting sophisticated applications online. Our customers are asking us for the ability to have a high level of sophistication in their application, as well as high level of scale.

So not only are they coming to us asking us to move from 100K to 300K to 500K to 1.5MBit streams, but they want to make sure that when they do that, we are going to tie in with their J2EE applications, that in turn is tied into their user authentication system, which in turn is tied into their reporting system, which -- by the way, also has to work with two or three other third-party technologies that they want to support as part of their infrastructure.

It is generally a much more sophisticated application and developer that we’re working with. And what is great for both of us is that we are working with a more sophisticated business model.

We’ve definitely seen a dramatic transformation over the past several years in terms of what our consumers -- you and I and, of course, businesses -- are doing daily online. Certainly, within the past year or two we had an inflection point in terms of adoption.

A number of different things are driving that. On one hand, you have a number of technology trends. Certainly one of the most significant is broadband adoption, both in the number of households and businesses that are connected online through broadband on a daily basis, as well as in terms of what broadband means to people today.

Business approaches to using this content has powerfully transformed sites from merely a Website to an online extension of their regular business -- if not an online business in itself. For example, in the media space we see several businesses formed around pay-per-content models, ad-supporting models, and syndication models. In the software space we see companies using the online channel as a primary way to deliver their content. The technology challenges get really exciting with the companies that have real online businesses and are enabling that business online.

There are many different challenges to realizing online businesses. I talked about pay-for content, for example, or ad-supported content or syndication. The business models themselves are complicated. Realizing them requires overcoming several technical obstacles.

Delivery is obviously a big challenge. Another is: How do you deliver the increasingly high-definition video streams, asynchronous transactions, and lots of small images on a user-generated site? How do you deliver all of this content in a reliable, scalable way?

These companies are evolving; they are facing many challenges, both fortunately and unfortunately, in a number of different areas. The real key theme is the logic and the tools it takes to enable that online business and the sophisticated business logic required to have such an online business.

A large part of that is making sure you have the rich interactive high-quality experience for your user because, ultimately, that is what makes it engaging, what makes people come back to your site and makes people click on more pages, more ads, more video, and more information. At the end of the day, that is what allows you to have your online business.

Doing that on the Internet has many challenges. How do you distribute that information through the Internet, which isn't designed fundamentally to handle the notion of a TV broadcast? You can’t show up at a data center and say, “Hi, I’d like to buy 50GB a second of traffic,” let alone thousands of gigabytes a second of traffic.

That does not work, and is not how the Internet was designed. A large part of what we do for our customers at Akamai is to not only give them the tools that enable sophisticated online business logic to do the targeting and the rights management, but also to provide the underlying platform that allows them to do scalable content distribution, which really is impossible using the bare metal of the Internet.

Listen to the podcast, or read the full transcript for more on Internet media business services platforms. Sponsor: Akamai Technologies.