Mercedes Ruehl Reporter

Mercedes writes for The Australian Financial Review and BRW from the Sydney newsroom. She has an interest in technology, politics and travel writing.

View more articles from Mercedes Ruehl

Meet Akamai, the company that keeps web giants online

Published 30 April 2013 11:32, Updated 01 May 2013 10:20

+font -font print
Meet Akamai, the company that keeps web giants online

Akamai Technologies services between 15-25 per cent of the world’s internet traffic at any given time

Ever wondered about the secret as to why major global technology companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple and most recently, the second mega sale of Click Frenzy, don’t buckle under huge user demand?

It’s called Akamai Technologies and it is no secret, given it has been servicing a big part of the world’s web traffic since 1998. Most people have heard of Akamai’s clients, but the name of internet content delivery company still draws a blank among the majority of the population.

“The most common question I get is ‘How does this thing work again?’ ” says Ian Teague, the senior manager for Akamai Australasia.

This is surprising, considering the tech company services 15-25 per cent of the world’s internet traffic at any given time.

Like most success stories in the technology sector, Akamai was a small start-up – by a PhD student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US – one that scored Yahoo! and Apple as early customers and investors. It is now a billion-dollar company, reporting revenue of $1.3 billion last year.

Teague may don a suit every day but he says the start-up never lost its roots.

“If you go to our head office in Boston you will still see guys wandering around in sandals and socks,” Teague says.

In Australia, where the company has had a presence since 2002 and now employs some 22 people at its offices in Sydney and Melbourne, has about 150 customers. They include Fairfax Media, publisher of BRW, Qantas Airways and some of the big banks. The public service is another major client, including some of the emergency management departments.

The Rural Fire Service in Victoria, for example, “couldn’t scale to meet the demand of people rushing to the site to get information without Akamai”, Teague says.

After a botched debut for its online mega sale in November 2012, the founders of Click Frenzy brought Akamai on board for its second Mother’s Day sale in April. This time the site didn’t crash, although there was less traffic.

Akami works by evenly distributing the load across the roughly 125 internet service providers throughout Australia. What it does best is help ease congestion between what are called “points of interconnect” – the connection points in the digital world among internet service providers such as telecommunications companies. It is where delays occur because providers are trying to minimise costs and Akamai works to get those convoluted PoIs routing more efficiently.

After a spate of hacking attempts on the websites of the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, businesses might also take comfort in Akamai’s other area, security.

“The rise of the internet also means the rise of security threats. So Akamai can also act as a shock absorber,” Teague says, explaining one of the most common ways is to hire robots to attack a site and have it crash under unrelenting demand.

Teague is particularly excited about the rollout of the national broadband network, saying it will fuel even quicker growth of entrepreneurs and technology companies.

“It will really lift the bar and open up the market for the use of the internet. It’s all a part of corporate Australia’s growing awareness in this space,” he says.

It used to be that internet companies were Akamai’s main customers but the increasing adoption of cloud technology by Australian companies means the corporate world is catching up.

“It’s a fundamental shift and it’s very exciting, it is going to really boost innovation,” Teague says.

Comments