Ever since AT&T outsourced the value added end of its CDN efforts to Cotendo, I have been trying to keep an eye on the small but dynamic challenger to Akamai in this corner of the content delivery market. Today they opened up a new battle front with the introduction of their Cloudlet platform, which is billed as "the world’s first fully customizable, high-performance and globally distributed cloud application environment." And they seem to have some other carriers testing the waters as well. First off, let's look at what it means - minus the media buzzwords.
The 'cloud' in this context is made up of Cotendo's edge servers. Via cloudlets, their content-provider customers can move beyond merely caching content and actually execute custom code on those edge servers in response to requests for content. Why would that be useful? Because the more personalized the web becomes, the more non-cacheable stuff there is: logic that determines what version of a website is delivered to different screens, or what downloads are authorized from which locations, or who knows what else might be driven by the mobile data wave. By smoothly integrating the ability to push some of that decision-making power into their cloud, Cotendo hopes to enable a new generation of scalable web applications.
A few years ago, telcos from every corner of the globe were jockeying for position in the CDN space, but that has died down with a few exceptions. The focus for most now seems to be less on becoming a CDN and more on serving content customers any way they can, which is reflected in AT&T's recent decisions to work with both Cotendo and EdgeCast rather than blaze their own technological trail. That seems to be more true at the value-added end of the CDN space, where Akamai has been putting money to work to maintain its edge over challengers - something few carriers seem interested in matching right now. But they will inevitably have customers that need something more, and Cotendo is probably looking to be the arms dealer they turn to.
Seems like a trend that will translate to the current cloud computing boom amongst telecommunications providers: build out the essential services yourselves where it makes sense and license the specialty stuff.
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