Akamai Accelerates Internet Applications

Service helps companies speed up Web transactions worldwide

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

May 6, 2005

3 Min Read

For SKF Group, a Swedish supplier of roller bearings and seals, business was booming last year in the Asia-Pacific region. Asia's new and growing mills, manufacturing plants, and assembly lines represented 13% of SKF's business last year and a quarter of its sales growth.

But Richard Olivecrona, director of Internet management, had a problem. The company's Web site is hosted outside Stockholm, and users in Asia were experiencing download times of up to 15 seconds. Anything involving a transaction could take even longer.

SKF prides itself on its expertise in design engineering and provides guidance on its products, such as the clearance needed for a roller bearing or the load it can carry, on its Web site. If it takes a long time for prospects to come up with those calculations, decision making on an order might be delayed--or worse.

Routing intelligence helps spot slowdowns, Frictionless Commerce's Haubner says.

So Olivecrona turned to Akamai Technologies Inc. last October to speed up both SKF's informational downloads and, more important, transactions made by customers in Asia. SKF was able to reduce the average download time for the exchange of information from nine seconds to three worldwide. The time lapse for transactions, such as a query to the Interactive Engineering Catalogue, was reduced by a factor of four. Most of the gain came not from any speed-ups inside the SKF data center in Orebro, Sweden, but from Akamai's ability to tighten the round-trip time lapse.

SKF is an early customer of a service Akamai launched last week called Akamai Application Accelerator. Using it, Akamai can intercept a browser call to SKF.com at the Internet's domain name server and route it to one of 14,000 Akamai network servers around the globe. Because Akamai's servers perform more-intelligent route mapping, the browser call reaches the SKF host by the fastest-available route on the Internet, and the response returns the same way.

Akamai's extensive server network, best known for caching content at the "edge" of the Internet close to users, now offers a speed-up function for applications running on Web sites. Akamai servers frequently ask for test pages from customers' sites to see how fast they get transferred. Routing intelligence on the servers watches the transfers, identifies slowdowns on the Internet, and then moves intercepted browser requests around slow segments, explains Wayne Haubner, chief technology officer at Frictionless Commerce Inc., a provider of supplier-relationship-management services and another Akamai customer.

The Akamai Application Accelerator service starts at $6,000 a month. Akamai isn't the only company offering application acceleration. Its main competitor is startup Netli Inc., a pioneer in the field. Both companies are focused on accelerating queries and Web-site application responses across the public Internet. To do so, Netli overlays the Internet with its own protocol rather than relying on an extensive network of servers, as Akamai does. Both perform DNS interception and then route more intelligently for speed.

E-commerce companies "will not get a big differential if they do it themselves," says Dana Gardner, a Yankee Group analyst. Tinkering with the data center may be less effective than a service to speed up the public part of the network--the Internet, he says.

The challenge is using a network designed for the exchange of information in the form HTML pages for more-complicated applications. And it's no longer sufficient to have applications that perform suitably in a company's home country. Says SKF's Olivecrona, "They have to run effectively across the world."

About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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