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June 2012 Archives

Making Up for Lost Ground in Mobile Banking

Nearly every day, the financial technology press publishes new, eye-popping statistics on the trends in mobile banking and finance. Here are some of the more telling stats that I have seen recently:

  • By 2015, Forrester predicts that one in five US adults will be using mobile banking.

  • Mobile customers are the new "sweet spot" segment for the banks.  They are younger, they are more affluent, and buy more financial products.

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Source: Forrester Research "US Bankers Want More From Digital Banking", April, 2012

  • "Tablet Banking" is now an established channel, and is tracked separately from Mobile Banking.
  • At a conference I recently attended, one bank reported a 70% drop in Mobile Web Site traffic over the past two years. The decline is attributed to customers adopting the bank's native mobile app.
  • They also reported customer usage patterns as follows:
-- Branch: 1-2 visits per month.
-- Web Site: 7-8 visits per month.
-- Mobile App: 28-30 visits per month.
  • Cannibalization of the web channel is underway in banking, and some banks are now experiencing a reduction in web sessions.
  • Multiple banks are now reporting that they are expecting and planning for the web-to-mobile crossover by 2014 or 2015.
Why is Mobile Banking so Hot?

Research shows that younger, more affluent and more profitable customers are the first customer segment adopting mobile banking. These same customers are also visiting more frequently. What are the drivers behind this? Mobile banking is all about convenience. Mobile check deposit is a good example of this convenience. If you have not tried mobile check deposit with your bank, please try it. Experience this first hand, and you may never deposit a check in an ATM again. Remote deposit capture (RDC) is now "table stakes" and a great example of the convenience of mobile banking.

Akamai IO - The Akamai Internet Observatory

Possibly the best part of working on Web performance is the community. It always amazes me how users, vendors, and even competitors work together to make the Web faster. Akamai does its best to support this community, through actions like sponsoring Web performance meetups and open-sourcing tools like Mobitest.

However, the most valuable resource Akamai has to offer this community arguably isn't tools - it's data. That's the reason I'm really excited to share with you the launch of Akamai IO - The Akamai Internet Observatory.

What is Akamai IO
Akamai IO is a portal for sharing continuous data from the traffic Akamai sees with the community. Akamai delivers roughly 2 trillion content requests a day, spanning Web sites from practically every industry and geography. This volume and diversity of data is pretty unique, and is a fairly accurate representation of the entire Web.

It's important to emphasize that Akamai IO is a source of data, not conclusions. We hope you will dig into that data and reach your own conclusions, helping everybody's understanding of the Web. We will summarize some of the data in the State of the Internet report, and highlight trends in blog posts, but not within Akamai IO itself.  

Lastly, the data in Akamai IO will be continuously updated. The exact frequency will change based on the data, but we hope to show data no more than a couple of days after it occurred. The timing granularity of the data will also vary, but our goal is to aim for daily data or better.

The initial data set used for Akamai IO is based on very small sample of traffic from several hundred Akamai customer Web sites, amounting to roughly 600 million requests per day. While small in Akamai scale, this is definitely a big enough sample to draw conclusions from. Over time we expect to grow that sample to include requests from most Akamai customer Web sites.
The dramatic increase in quality of video content, combined with new technology that's ability to scale for television-size audiences online, has resulted in a growing TV revolution on the Internet. We've seen audiences on Akamai's HD Network grow dramatically to-date and we believe a 100X increase is possible in the coming years. Are you ready?

Yesterday, speaking at Brightcove PLAY, I outlined three mega trends that are helping to drive this TV revolution:

More premium content is moving online. To meet burgeoning consumer demand for high-quality content, producers and programmers are bringing more and more of their premium content online, via on-demand and live streaming formats.

Convergence of lean-in and lean back. As consumers increasingly seek an enhanced-TV experience, we see more and more people "co-viewing" across devices and not just choosing one screen size over another.

Widespread adoption of mobile media. The proliferation of connected devices is rapidly driving mobile media consumption. For example, according to one recent study, the number of streamed mobile TV users on smartphones will reach 240 million by 2014.

The combination of these three trends presents tremendous opportunities for media companies to better engage with customers at anytime, anywhere -- but you have to make it available to consumers who are expecting a TV-quality experience every time!

Gone are the days when online video was reserved for grainy, VHS-quality at best, user-generated clips of stupid pet tricks. Today's video is HD, personalized, and primed for monetization. It needs to look sharp, like the difference between these two clips: http://wwwns.akamai.com/brightcove/dog_redbull_oneclip_final.mp4

If you want to build a real business online with video, the path you need to take has come into sharp focus.

Paul Sagan is Akamai's President and CEO

Avoiding Security Subsistence Syndrome

At the recent Hack in the Box 2012 security conference in Amsterdam, Andy Ellis, Akamai's Chief Security Officer took to the stage to provide a candid, behind the scenes look at how the company's security program has evolved over time.

The talk focused on the concept of the security poverty line - a term coined by 451 Group analyst Wendy Nather to describe organizations that don't have the resources to do the bare minimum in security - and addressed how companies can evolve from operating under security subsistence syndrome to working in a world class security organization.

Andy's real-world examples from within the walls of Akamai provide great insight into some of the ways security professionals can do the most with what they have, ultimately shifting their focus from simply being compliant to actually meeting their real security goals. Later this year, Andy will be delving into some of the topics discussed at HITB Amsterdam in greater detail. Check back for more details.

Rob Morton is a senior manager, public relations at Akamai  
While in Boston to attend the 2012 BIO International conference, Rt Hon David Willetts, UK Minister for Universities and Science took a detour across the river to Akamai's Cambridge, MA headquarters.

Mr. Willetts' duties include responsibility for cybersecurity in the UK Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, and during his visit he was able to spend some time discussing with Akamai Co-founder and Chief Scientist Tom Leighton, as well as members of Akamai's public sector team, how government organizations can best protect their online assets.

The visit seems a natural extension of the work Mr. Willetts is doing back in the UK which includes overseeing the development of hubs to enable businesses to share information on cyber threats and a commitment to find new ways to bring businesses, academics and government together to exploit the latest security innovations. It'll be interesting to see how that effort unfolds.

Rt Hon David Willetts and Tom Leighton in the Akamai NOCC

Why the Internet Doesn't Always Work

A primer for Controlling the Challenges of Internet

This coming week thousands of us who focus on ecommerce - both as online retailers and technology providers alike - will be converging in Chicago at IRCE's 2012 event.  Teaming up with Kevin Diamond, the CTO of Hautelook, I am looking forward to the opportunity to talk about the challenges of doing business over the Internet.  

Hautelook is an excellent example of a company who had little time to evolve their technology and infrastructure.   As a flash sale site, Hautelook has to face the challenges of peak traffic every single day.  Their story is a great case study in making the Internet work under unique pressures. Not only did they see 60% YoY growth in 2011, they face "Black Friday" spikes every single day at 8am.

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As content leaves your datacenter, your degree of control wanes
To understand - and therefore control - the risks of the Internet we need to evaluate the full path of content from the source, across the Internet, and onto the client.  In today's increasingly complex environment, that source of content can be a retailer's datacenter (or datacenters!), cloud based infrastructure or SaaS/3rd party based content.  The client side is equally complex encompassing multiple devices and geographies, through interfaces either you or your partners control.  

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Datacenter Scale
At the content's source, the most critical component is scale.  A number of high profile sale event failures over the last year alone have taught us all a lesson in preparing for the best case traffic scenarios.  This is exactly where Hautelook's experience in daily flash sale events can be applied.  Paraphrasing from Kevin's approach, the critical factors to scaling for peak events include:
1.    Know your threshold, and constantly reevaluate with growth
2.    Identify bottlenecks at scale through comprehensive load testing
3.    Virtualize your environment across a public or private cloud, relying on an effective load balancing strategy
4.    Deliver as much content as possible from a content delivery service; delivering even dynamic pages using Akamai's Dynamic Page Caching service.
5.    Design pages to personalize content client-side, retrieving just the personalized elements via javascript, resulting in the entire page being cacheable.

Internet Performance, Reliability, and Security

For the personalized content - like checkout processes - that must traverse the Internet, the focus shifts from scale to performance, reliability, and security.  While the Internet may seem simple on the outside (so often depicted as a fluffy white cloud!) it is actually a complex web of networks connected via peering points that are often based on business contracts versus performance.  The lowest cost route of transit may be the most congested, resulting in loss of data and impacting performance.  

These problems are compounded in mobile networks, designed with voice rather than data in mind.  The catch up effort to improve throughput and performance is significant.  In fact mobile websites now have page load speeds that average 9 seconds - we haven't seen page load speeds of 9 seconds in desktop since 2001.  We're 11 years behind!

To make matters worse, the complexity of the Internet has increased over the last 18 months with the growing threat of malicious attacks.  Attacks are increasing in frequency, size and sophistication putting your site at risk of becoming unavailable for real buyers, or potentially worse, putting your customer's sensitive data at risk of theft.

Fortunately these problems have largely been solved.  In next week's session we'll talk about the ability to:
1.    Control the path your content takes through the internet, routing around congestion issues that impede performance
2.    Increase the throughput of the internet - sending more data across so the content reaches your end user faster
3.    Modify HTML content in real-time to be optimized for device and internet conditions
4.    Use a distributed security network to protect against malicious attacks of any size and scale     

Client Complexity - Many Devices, Growing Destinations
Perhaps what we've talked most about in the last year - the growing complexity of serving to multiple devices with varying characteristics.  Compound this with the complexity of serving geographic specific content - whether it's translated and in the local currency or offering the right promotions for Florida versus Minnesota in the winter.   Understanding where your user is, and what device they are holding, usually dictates entirely different content.  A comprehensive strategy to capture and use that intelligence, and serve the right content with the first request, is critical to improving bounce rates and engagement.  

The Prescription for "Cloud Control"
As more and more content moves to the cloud, implementing a "cloud control" layer to consistently ensure near infinite scale, best in class performance and reliability, and security is critical.  I look forward to delving into each of these topics in more detail next week

Lelah Manz is Chief Strategist for eCommerce at Akamai

Dr. Tom Leighton on Transitioning to IPv6

With "World IPv6 Launch" officially underway, Akamai is providing a unique look at IPv6 traffic on its global platform.

Organized by the Internet Society, and building on the awareness of last year's successful World IPv6 Day, the world launch of IPv6 represents a major milestone in the global deployment of the successor to the current Internet Protocol, IPv4.

Read more in Akamai's news announcement from this week.

The following is a statement provided by Akamai's Co-Founder and Chief Scientist, Tom Leighton, on the importance of this milestone...

"IPv6 is critical to the future of the Internet's underlying architecture ... and to support the billions of devices that will connect to the Internet over the coming years.

"A tremendous amount of work and awareness has occurred over the past decade to prepare for the transition to wide-scale commercial use of this important protocol. 2012 will be a milestone year for the Internet as we begin to see rapid growth in the adoption of IPv6 after years of changes to operating systems, client and server software, networking hardware, and Internet backbone networks.
"Akamai has built its business around transforming the unpredictable Internet into a robust and reliable platform for transacting e-commerce, distributing rich media, and delivering enterprise applications. We stand committed to helping our customers with a smooth transition to IPv6.
"Having expanded our global IPv6 footprint to over 50 countries, Akamai enables Web sites to reach a growing audience over IPv6 with the performance and reliability that they have come to expect, and demand, from IPv4. Over time, the permanent deployment of IPv6 by companies around the globe will ensure the Internet remains accessible by all the devices that will be part of the future of online business.
"We applaud the work of The Internet Society, and so many of today's businesses that have prepared for this important transition ... ensuring the Internet remains a robust, collaborative, and infinitely accessible platform."

Jeff Young is Senior Director of Corporate Communications at Akamai
Ranked #186 on the Internet Retailer Top 500 list, Motorcycle Superstore is a leading online retailer in the motorcycle and powersports industry. Check out this video to hear directly from Jason Miller, Vice President of Technology, on how the company accelerates their eCommerce business to get the best performance for its customers. 

As Motorcycle Superstore's eCommerce business grows, a fast, secure and seamless site for customers is critical. From content and mobile acceleration to Web security and PCI compliance, Motorcycle Superstore needs a single solution provider to address these challenges as they expand their online business. Leveraging the Akamai platform, Motorcycle Superstore is powered to deliver content at scale, improve conversion rates and drive sales revenue.

By monitoring traffic for threats, Miller said the company found that 6 -10 percent of traffic trying to access their site violated the company's firewall rules and was stopped at the edge. Because Akamai's Web Application Firewall, part of the company's KONA security solutions, blocks bad traffic at the network edge outside of Motorcycle Superstore's datacenter, it allows the company to maintain its PCI compliance, drive more site traffic and safeguard its brand and shoppers' information. According to Motorcycle Superstore, since leveraging Akamai, it has reduced capital expenditures on security hardware by 15 percent and reduced bandwidth costs associated with handling attack traffic by 10 percent.  
And on the mobile front, like many other retailers, Motorcycle Superstore is seeing a tremendous growth in number of shoppers accessing their site from mobile devices. To aggressively keep pace with growing mobile usage and capitalize on the opportunity to convert the traffic into sales, the retailer implemented Akamai Mobile Accelerator to deliver mobile content close to the mobile gateways, addressing challenges of mobile delivery and providing faster response times. Miller says that Akamai's mobile services helped enhance the user experience, encouraged more time on the mobile site, and drove a 200 percent increase in mobile channel sales.

Lelah Manz is Chief Strategist for ECommerce at Akamai

Public Sector IPv6 Heats up this Summer!

What an exciting spring and summer 2012 for IPv6, especially for our public sector customers! As the world's leading cloud platform for delivering secure, high-performing user experiences to any device, anywhere, Akamai continues to do its part in the global transition by dual stacking its infrastructure, and helping its customers deliver content to their IPv6 users.   

The Federal IPv6 Task Force, chaired by Peter Tseronis of the US Dept. of Energy, continues to drive IPv6 adoption through multiple channels and Akamai, working with our public sector customers, is proud to be part of those efforts. I recently had the opportunity to brief the Fedv6 Working Group on Akamai's IPv6 road map and how we could help federal agencies meet OMB IPv6 mandates. We've already transitioned 21 public sector customers (715 hostnames) to our dual stack platform  which not only helps them meet the September 2012 IPv6 OMB requirement for external public facing websites, but allows them to participate in World IPv6 Launch on June 6, 2012.

We're really pleased that so many public sector customers have transitioned to IPv6 already, but we haven't yet hit 100%... If you are an Akamai customer, and do not know your transition date, you can contact your account team, or me directly.    If you are interested in learning more about how Akamai services can help you meet upcoming mandates, contact me today. All new customers will go live directly onto our dual stack platform.   

I am anxious to see the IPv6 traffic grow over time and have already begun capturing data for a historical reference down the road. And if you haven't already, start capturing statistics today. With so much speculation around IPv6 traffic growth - from where, when, and how much - it will be great to have quantitative stats revealing any trends that should arise. Akamai customers can view real time traffic statistics, including those specific to IPv6, through Akamai's Luna Control Center.  

Akamai can also help protect websites with its security portfolio. Agencies in a rush to meet deadlines may find themselves with non IPv6 compliant firewalls and intrusion detection systems. Having Akamai in front of their origins reduces risk, defending their infrastructure from IPv6 attacks and malware. We also offer a DNSSEC service.

There's a lot of great information out there about IPv6.

For example, if you missed my colleague Erik Nygren's IPv6 Webinar, you can catch it on demand anytime. Also, check out the video Dan York of the Internet Society posted regarding CDNs and IPv6.

Christine Schweickert is a Senior Engagement Manager at Akamai