Akamai and the need for speed

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan August 12, 2013
Without speed, online commerce risks failure and customer experience is significantly undermined, warns Tom Leighton, CEO of Akamai.

Following my posting yesterday on the forthcoming speed boost coming to US Starbucks customers over the next 18 months (and my own slow lane connection in my local branch!), another reminder that speed counts!

Without speed, online commerce risks failure and customer experience is significantly undermined, warns Tom Leighton, CEO of Akamai.

"We learned early on that enterprises conducting transactions online need those transactions to be fast; and today, user expectations have increased to the point where transactions need to be nearly instantaneous.

"Many studies have shown that conversion rates for e-commerce sites grow substantially when download times improve from several seconds to one second, and that they're even higher when download times reach sub-second levels.

"They have also shown that user abandonment rates increase with every extra second of delay. Even small delays can result in lost business and brand damage."


Akamai recently published the latest of its quarterly State of the Internet report which finds that global average connection speeds have surpassed the 3 Mbps mark for the first time.

Between Q4 2012 and Q1 2013, the global average connection speed rose 4% from 2.9 Mbps to 3.1 Mbps, or 17% year-over-year.

Global broadband adoption, which Akamai rates as speeds of 4Mbps and up, increased 5.8% last quarter to reach 46%.

Global high broadband, rated as 10 Mbps and up, reached 13% thanks to a 10% increase over the previous quarter.

Of course those numbers vary from country to country. ranging from 1.4% in Oman to 122% in Iraq.

Need for speed 

Tom Leighton

Speed is built into the Akamai corporate DNA, suggests Leighton:

"Akamai has long understood the ever-increasing need for speed, and that is why we have engineered what we believe are the world's fastest application acceleration technologies. As a result, many of the world's leading enterprises turn to Akamai to accelerate their applications online.

"Our spirit of innovation and our desire to solve the most difficult Internet challenges are just as strong today as they were 15 years ago. From day one, we have worked hard to gain an understanding of how our customers want to use the Internet to make their businesses more agile, more customer-centric and more profitable."

Akamai's customer stats make for some impressive reading:

  • 96 of the Internet Retailer 100 companies
  • 7 of the top 10 global banks
  • 19 of the top 20 hotel brands
  • More than one-third of the Global 500 companies.
  • 2 trillion deliveries every day
  • Over $250 billion worth of e-commerce transactions each year.

The technology underpinning those numbers includes Akamai's Dynamic Site Accelerator (DSA) and Web Application Accelerator as well as what the firm positions as its next-generation acceleration solutions, Aqua Ion and Terra Alta, which entered their second release in June.

Leighton argues:

"The new versions of Ion and Alta have the ability to provide timely reporting on the real end-user experience, such as which device and browser they're using, which type of network they're on, and how it is performing, and speed observed by the real end user as they access the application.

"This capability to monitor real end-user performance as opposed to test agent performance has long been desired by our customers because it allows them to better understand exactly how their websites and applications are performing in the real world.

"With the latest release of Ion and Alta, online businesses now have improved acceleration solution coupled with a new ability to monitor and optimize the effectiveness of their applications across the wide spectrum of conditions experienced by their end users. Customers can now see for themselves the benefit provided by our acceleration solutions and the results are impressive."

Leighton makes the claim that real user monitoring has shown that by adopting Ion or Alta ecommerce, high-tech, and media companies can make their sites and applications nearly twice as fast and sometimes three times as fast as when they were using DSA.

Mobile thinking

Akamai's latest State of the Internet report cites data collected by Ericsson that shows the volume of mobile data traffic doubled from Q1 2012 to Q1 2013 and grew 19% between Q4 2012 and Q1 2013.

The rise of mobile technologies has of course had its impact on Akamai's business model with 14% of total traffic now coming via mobile devices while in the US, a quarter of online transactions are mobile.


This leads Leighton to predict:

"I think if you measure by transactions, mobile is going to become the majority. If you look at bps, it's probably not going to become the majority for a while because a lot of the bps come through software downloads that go to a lot of devices that aren't mobile and also video.

"Generally, mobile video has a little bit less in terms of the traffic share than video into your living room. But mobile is vital, and we have a lot of our R&D centered around products and services to make the mobile experience be really great for our customers."

Longer term Leighton expects to see a general move from web applications towards IP-based applications.

"Our IP Accelerator solution is used to find better routes in the Internet, better communication protocols to accelerate non-web applications. Nothing to do with caching, things like movies, phone calls, video, one-to-one kind of capabilities that are different than our traditional business.

"You'll see us move more into that area with all of our solutions, security and as we work on hybrid cloud optimization, to move beyond just web to do all IP acceleration and performance."

Overall, the goal is to deliver:

"a truly hyper-connected world, improving and transforming online experiences for everyone and everything wherever and however they are connected."


Graphics: Akamai State of the Internet Report

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