According to Dan Rayburn, Akamai (NASDAQ:AKAM, news, filings) is preparing to shake up the CDN space by licensing its software to network operators. Doing so would enable carriers, CLECs, and ISPs to incorporate Akamai’s technology into their own networks as an alternative to building their own – whether that is transparent caching or something more active.
While this would be a dramatic change for Akamai, they wouldn’t be the first by a longshot – EdgeCast for one has been doing it for a while now with multiple carrier partners, and Cotendo licenses their software to AT&T as part of their partnership as I recall. But since Akamai is the 800lb gorilla, it will definitely mean something – exactly what will depend on the economics of the actual product. And that product is still under development, so who knows.
I do wonder though if this might not also be a prelude to some variant of the CDN federation concept. After all, if Akamai software comes to support the caching design of many network operators, it stand to reason that those networks would find it easier to talk to one another. When content delivery networks can all talk to each other in a way analagous to peering, that is when the entire CDN concept will finally finish the long journey from an overlay technology for delivering special bits to a fundamental building block of the internet that underlies the delivery of all bits.
Regardless, it is quite clear now that the relationship between the pure CDNs and network operators is in flux. The former are moving rapidly into the cloud and to the value added end of the spectrum as older segments of the market become commoditized. The latter are increasingly worried about both scaling their own networks to handle rising video traffic and above all staying in control of that process. What we don’t see is the two coming together in what was once expected to be a battle royale over who would conquer the revenues from the traditional CDN business. Except of course for the case of Level 3, which is making the most of the situation at the moment.
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