Akamai unveils IP application accelerator

New service can accelerate all IP-based applications, company says

Akamai announced this week that it is expanding its Web application acceleration services to include any IP-based application, including VoIP.

Akamai, a content delivery network service provider based in the US, has been delivering Web application acceleration services since 2005. However, the company's new IP Application Accelerator is its first product that covers every enterprise application delivered over IP. Neil Cohen, product line manager at Akamai, says the new service will allow companies to speed up all of their IP applications, reduce their operating expenditures and boost productivity.

The accelerator works through a program called SureRoute, which continuously scours the Web for the fastest and most reliable path to an origin server, much like a traffic helicopter that reports on which roads are clogged and which roads are open during rush hour. This method of routing Internet traffic to the fastest path, says Cohen, is a key to reducing latency for IP-based applications that depend on consistent delivery, such as VoIP, live chat and secure file transfers. Previously, the accelerator only covered HTTP-based Web applications.

In addition to making IP-based applications faster, says Cohen, the accelerator can also limit the effects of packet loss on end users. Though Cohen notes that it would be impossible to completely eliminate packet loss, he says that Akamai's service can "make it look like packet loss goes away from the end user prospective" through a number of techniques, such as sending packets through multiple streams, which lessens the time that a lost packet can be recovered.

Tests performed by Akamai have shown that an IP application sent from Cambridge to Los Angeles using the accelerator experienced no packet loss and a latency of 79 milliseconds. The same application sent over a public Internet path, the company found, experienced 1.91% packet loss and 202 ms latency.

Unlike Akamai's previous Web application acceleration service, which granted access to Akamai's global server network in exchange for subscription fees, the IP Application Accelerator requires the installation of a "Gateway Region" server at the customer premise that is used to intercept packets and forward them to the origin server.

George Hamilton, the director of Yankee Group's Enabling Technologies Enterprise group, says the IP Application Accelerator could be a boon for businesses that want to speed up their Web applications at different branches across the globe, but don't want to invest in building data centers all over the world. He also says the accelerator could make companies see Akamai as a legitimate player in the enterprise services market.

"It's going to raise the level of awareness that Akamai does more than content delivery," he says. "This is going to put them on the radar screen for more enterprise applications."

Rob Whiteley, a senior analyst of enterprise marketing at Forrester Research, says Akamai's introduction of its service has been well-timed, as enterprise demand for Web acceleration services is very high.

"[Akamai] can clearly go after companies that are suffering from extending applications over the Internet to mobile and remote constituencies," he says. "However, this is not without challenges. The WAN optimization vendors have a clear mindshare lead. Also, we're beginning to see traction from software-based acceleration technologies that don't require an agent on the far end... I think Akamai will have to wage an educational battle, but there are very few companies that can address this Internet performance issue like Akamai can."

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