Akamai's hit parade meter extends to music downloads

It will be fascinating over the next five years to see how Akamai works these values within the SaaS vendor community, and within a coalescing ecology with Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Salesforce.com, Citrix, and Cisco. How these companies relate may very well stretch the definition of co-opetition.

Akamai Technologies will come out with a music downloads metering and monitoring tool, open to the public, that will in October begin providing a real-time, Billboard-like aggregate ranking of what new (or old) music is hot (and not).

Based on the Internet traffic from those major sites delivering music to end users, Akamai's service will be similar to the other real-time Internet use indicators it already provides for news and retail commerce. The Cambridge, Mass. company -- currently a Wall Street darling -- is also preparing to take the wraps off a major Web site redesign.

What's more, also in October, Akamai will begin providing much greater metrics and analytics to its customers on how content, media, and applications acceleration services are performing granularly, yet on a global scale. Customers, says Akamai, have been clamoring for more details on how its content delivery networks (CDN) services, along with other Akamai speed and reliability services, impact the way end users and businesses access content, data, and applications online.

Called Site Analyzer, the new metrics service will provide automated reports on online asset performance, diagnose and trouble shoot irregularities, as well as issue email reports and alerts on performance metrics and continuity fixes. Akamai said the reports in no way gather or convey user data, but rather measure the aggregated performance of applications and services on the network.

Furthermore, Akamai is ramping up Link Syndication offerings that help its media delivery customers move their business models up the food chain along the following progression: pay per view, subscription, advertising, and syndication.

We should also expect to see Akamai increasingly reach out to developers of RIAs, AJAX apps, and SOAs so to allow them to more easily exploit the benefits of Internet acceleration, and to automate the speed and reliability of these inherently complex and highly chatty applications. Akamai hinted that open source tools may be a good way to attract developers to rely on these services (infrastructure as a service?) when they design these new rich, server-deployed applications. "Zero touch for AJAX developers," is the goal for the network, says Akamai.

A significant impact of Web 2.0 and social networks has been the huge upswing in the numbers and size of "user generated content" that is going up the pipe, as well as coming down somewhere else. Many networks are designed to favor the downloading, not the uploading, of such content. Akamai is working with several large Web 2.0 providers - including Friendster -- to accelerate and ease the upload issue. This could have huge implications as users create and want to distribute HD video at scale.

These newsy tidbits emerged during an analyst conference that Akamai hosted Friday at its headquarters, in the shadow of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I took away a lot of observations from the all-day conference, and have begun to see Akamai emerging as a kingpin to a larger services-delivery based ecology play that puts it in a complex relationship with such other Internet behemoths as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Cisco.

Such forward-looking analysis begs the question, What kind of company is Akamai? It started out as a CDN in the 1990s, has progressed to a software intellectual property bank and global server distributor, but is moving more closely to becoming a B2C and B2B online sales and marketing services company that also hosts more and more of any Internet-facing company's edge infrastructure.

Akamai customers at the conference spoke of their value from Akamai's network services, but also were very interested in having Akamai assume more of their edge computing and cache and storage needs. That offloading of the cache and Web servers tiers (maybe the SAN?) is becoming especially critical as AJAX, RIAs, and Flash and Flex content grow in popularity.

Akamai may also be able to add into the mix the ability to allow its customers to inject advertising far more intelligently into streams of applications, content, and services. They can, for example, target geographic locations for specific ads, and begin to leverage policy-based directions of how ads are dispensed. And that may only be scratching the surface of what intelligent networks and highly targeted ads can do in tandem.

Akamai President and CEO Paul Sagan says he does not want to be in the datacenter hosting business, but Akamai's customers seem to be pulling it in that direction. From Burger King to AutoDesk, clients are moving to subscription software as a service (SaaS) models that benefit from high service levels and predictable recurring costs (and revenues). Akamai is in an excellent position to perform more of the application delivery and assurance role for more types of companies and more types of digital, IP-based anything.

A major enterprise CTO sees his applications deployment future as: A handful of his own servers, with Cisco FineGround in front of them, and then handing off the rest of the worry to Akamai. Life should be so easy.

It will be fascinating over the next five years to see how Akamai works these values within the SaaS vendor community, and within a coalescing ecology with Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Salesforce.com, Citrix, and Cisco. How these companies relate may very well stretch the definition of co-opetition.

Disclosure: Akamai is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.