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Finishing School for Application Delivery in the Cloud

Recently analyst James Staten generated a lot of interest when he characterized the cloud as entering its "awkward teenage years," not quite at the point of adulthood, but stretching outside the comfort zone (of enterprises) and experimenting with new ideas.  Today Akamai is introducing Terra Alta, its latest application acceleration product that acts kind of like a finishing school, so to speak, to help refine the cloud and deliver applications more like the adult it's trying to be.  In a way, we're helping the teen cloud find a place in adult IT society.

We've always talked about our "Edge" with EdgeServers distributed across the globe helping to optimize applications and Websites.  But we've focused on the "middle mile," the public Internet, where our platform stretches to reach "close" to end-users, datacenters, and cloud providers.  With Terra Alta, we're recognizing that "close" is no longer good enough.  We've made a giant leap, extending our optimizations beyond the edge of the Internet and into our customers' data centers, at the edge of the enterprise.  We've virtualized our optimization technology, via a virtual machine (VM) we call Enterprise Edge, which can be quickly and easily installed in the DMZ using Akamai's customer portal. 

Application architecture has previously focused mainly on the database, application, and web tiers, without considering the 4th tier of application delivery, where enterprises insert intelligence to optimize and accelerate those applications to end-users.  However, we believe that for today's Internet-enabled enterprise, that 4th tier needs to extend from the inside the datacenter to all the way across the public Internet.   That last piece, outside the purview of the IT team, is much harder to control and can seriously hamper application effectiveness.  Enterprise Edge's proximity to the application origin allows us to extend across the 4th Tier and do a number of things we could never do before.

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The first, and most obvious benefit of extending Akamai into the datacenter is that it allows us to extend our routing and transport optimizations, which previously stopped at our platform edge, all the way into the customer's origin.  It also offloads some of the application infrastructure by offloading TCP and SSL connections.  But where it starts getting really exciting is with Web Deduplication. 

Because we've moved from the edge of the Internet to the edge of the enterprise, we now have insight into what objects have already been sent from the origin.  We can now institute a data differencing process that eliminates the need to send those objects in their entirety, and instead send only the differences.  On a small Word document or pdf, it can provide a nice bump in performance, but imagine as files get larger, like a 10MB PowerPoint or 50MB+ CAD files, the tremendous boost you will experience.  We are seeing upwards of 400% performance improvement in our Beta customers and that's not even considering the offload benefit of not having to send all that redundant data back across the Internet.

This is just one of a number of innovations being introduced with Terra Alta.  Stay tuned for another post with insights into other ways Terra Alta helps address application delivery challenges.

Andy Rubinson is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for Terra Enterprise Solutions at Akamai