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Mastering Multi-Channel Madness

Note: This is the final blog post to our "Crush the Rush" holiday readiness webinar series.

Last week I teamed up with Steve Tack, VP of Product Management for Compuware APM, to talk about Mastering Multi-Channel Madness as part of our Crush the Rush holiday readiness webinar series.

Steve walked through five common mobile pitfalls ranging from making mobile users wait to having mobile myopia to not leveraging third parties value.

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We all know that overcoming these pitfalls will be key to our success this holiday season. Whether it is delighting end-users with speed, or leveraging third parties to drive additional value  - or even innovating with agility - all of these areas hold the key to our holiday success. 

 

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's take a look at the reality for your customers today. Most retailers jumped into mobile. And let's be clear - mobile isn't just smartphones - it also includes tablets. In fact, if we look at the last holiday shopping season we saw an extraordinary amount of traffic from tablets - in particular during Thanksgiving - so much traffic that this phenomenon started being dubbed couch commerce.

    Mobile Computing... Convenient but Maybe Not So Green

    Just when I thought the trend toward smaller, more efficient mobile computing was taking us in a greener direction, a recent study by the Center for Energy-Efficient Telecommunications (CEET) finds, in fact, we're creating a monster. To date, attention to the rapidly expanding energy consumption and concomitant carbon emissions of the Internet has been focused on data centers. A New York Times series targeted the data centers of major Cloud players such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple to reveal the power hungry and polluting nature of the Internet - 2% of the world's energy and growing. Greenpeace in its "How Dirty is Your Data" and "How Clean is Your Cloud" reports also exposed the energy- and carbon-intensiveness of data centers. To their credit, the major Cloud players, including Akamai, have responded and are leading the way to unprecedented efficiency, and even powering with renewables.

    But as we've been busy scrutinizing data centers, a new power-intensive infrastructure component is emerging: wireless. Traditionally, we accessed the Internet from PC's tethered to Ethernet cables, hard-wired into the Cloud. Most of our content and applications lived on our computers or on company servers. Now, thanks to advancements in ubiquitous wireless technology and smart, mobile clients, we've been unleashed, free to roam, to access our videos, music, documents and applications anytime, anywhere. Smart phones and tablets have given us compute power at a fraction of the energy and clunkiness of PC's. This evolution has brought us unprecedented convenience and flexibility.   

    Now we come to find that all this freedom and convenience has come at an energy and environmental cost according to the CEET study, The Power of Wireless Cloud. Most surprising and concerning is that by 2015 wireless infrastructure, including technologies such as WiFi and 4G LTE, will account for 90% of the total energy consumption of the wireless cloud, while data centers supporting mobile users and their Internet activities will represent only 9%. Energy consumption of the wireless cloud will grow 460% from 9.2 TWh in 2012 to 43 TWh in 2015, resulting in a 24-megatonne increase in CO2 emissions, the equivalent of adding 4.9 million cars to the roads.

     

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    Source: The Power of Wireless Cloud, Centre for Energy Efficient Telecommunications, Bells Labs and University of Melbourne

    And that might be a lowball estimate. A 2011 study (G. Auer, Oct. 2011) cited by CEET estimates the contribution of just the 4G LTE infrastructure at 80 TWh. Akamai's most recent State of the Internet report supports this prediction of rapid growth in energy consumption indicating that mobile (2-4G only) web traffic has been doubling year over year since 2007.

     

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    Source:  Akamai State of the Internet Q1 2013 report.  Traffic data does not include Wi-Fi, DVB-H and Mobile WiMax).

    While the wireless cloud is only a small fraction of the Internet's total estimated 260 TWh of energy consumption today, we can only expect the transition to an untethered world to continue. The question is will the energy consumption of the wireless infrastructure dominate the total as predicted? Even at something substantially less than domination, that's still a lot of energy. And, like power-hungry data centers, unless that energy comes from renewable sources, it will be contributing to ever increasing greenhouse gas emissions which we cannot afford at any level of convenience and flexibility.

    But there are also some things we can do in the meantime. Helping to make the transmission of wireless traffic more efficient will help. For example, a feature of Akamai's Aqua Ion offering is support for "suppressed header for uplink traffic reduction" (SHUTR), developed by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. This HTTP protocol extension reduces the size of HTTP headers sent by mobile phones which in addition to improving browsing speeds reduces mobile data traffic. It's definitely a start.

     

    Nicole Peill-Moelter is Akamai's Director of Environmental Sustainability

    This October at the Edge Global Conference I'll be joined by technology visionaries from a wide range of industries and organizations discussing topics related to creating cutting edge experiences ... faster. 

    I'm specifically excited to share details about the new Developers' Track we'll be introducing. We have some fantastic presenters lined up, including Geoffrey Moore - Author and Business Strategies; Gene Kim - VisOps Author and Entrepreneur; Jason Grigsby - Mobile Web Evangelist; and Josh Clark - Mobile Design Strategist, talking about stimulating topics ranging from DevOps to responsive design, and discussing steps toward adopting these cutting-edge development methodologies.


     

    And, of course, beyond that we will share new information about Akamai product roadmaps, discuss best practices, and network with an incredible group of peers whilesharing a beer together after the sessions.

     

    Stay tuned and I look forward to seeing you at Edge 2013.

     

    Guy Podjarni

    Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, Web Experience , Akamai

    See You at Edge 2013!

    Since our founding, Akamai has been at the vanguard of the Internet revolution.  And as we prepare to celebrate our 15th anniversary this month, our spirit of innovation and our desire to solve the most difficult Internet challenges are just as strong today as they were 15 years ago.

    From day one, we have worked hard to gain an understanding of how our customers want to use the Internet to make their businesses be more agile, more customer-centric, and more profitable.  And we use that understanding to guide our innovation and to invent new solutions to help make our customers' visions become a reality.

    This October, we'll be gathering in Washington, DC for our 6th annual customer conference--Akamai Edge.  Edge is one of my favorite events because I get to hear from our customers about how they're using Akamai solutions to help deliver on the promise of the Cloud.  Edge is more than a conference; it's become a forum for Internet visionaries from a range of industries and regions to gather and share their secrets to online success.

    Our customer base now includes 96 of the Internet Retailer 100 companies, 7 of the top 10 global banks, 19 of the top 20 hotel brands, and more than one-third of the Global 500 companies.  And many of the leaders from those organizations will be on-hand at Edge to share their ideas for pushing the pace of innovation in a hyperconnected world.

    This year, we will hear from industry thought leaders such as Fedex CIO Rob Carter, Security Expert Bruce Schneier, IT visionary and author Gene Kim, and many others from organizations like eBay, Visa, CBS Interactive, and IBM.

    I look forward to seeing you in DC and to understanding how we can help improve your business in the rapidly-changing and increasingly-complex online world.

    Tom Leighton

    Chief Executive Officer, Akamai

    Note: This is the second blog post to our "Crush the Rush" holiday readiness webinar series.

     

    We all know eCommerce is evolving.  It used to be pretty simple.  A shopper would visit your eCommerce Web application from her laptop or PC. You probably had to support one, maybe two browsers.  But the world has changed - quickly.  The fact is the proliferation of connected devices has changed the way we shop - whether it's couch commerce or show rooming - mobile devices have changed the game.

     

    Yet it's not only mobile that has changed, the desktop/laptop environment has also evolved.  In 2008 the different versions of IE had close to 70% of the browser market share.  This is no longer the case with Chrome, Firefox and Safari growing significantly.  Looking only at the browser families hides a lot of complexity; IE7 and IE8 are not the same browser.  To get a more complete picture of browser development, check out Evolution Of The Web.

     

    Mobile is growing fast.  That is no longer news.  We have all seen Mary Meeker's projections and eBay's mobile commerce retail volume numbers.  And let's remember that mobile is not only smartphones - it includes tablets - in fact, some would argue they are the future of mobile commerce.

     

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    The fact that we no longer go online but are online has driven eCommerce growth.  According to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark 2012 US online sales for Black Friday increased ~21% over 2011 and Cyber Monday online sales grew by ~30% over 2011.  Online traffic trends over the years also show considerably bigger spike as more consumers look online for their holiday shopping.  This also means that the cost of failures or slowdowns under peak traffic conditions just keeps getting higher.

     

    Yet delivering fast, scalable Web apps, that keep getting bigger and more complex, to constrained devices over constrained networks, is no simple feat.  It has gotten to the point where sites on the Gomez US Retail Website Performance Index require on average 30 hosts to deliver a home page.  So what happens if one of these third parties has an issue?  That depends on the architecture of the page and often it means a significant degradation of performance from an end-user perspective.

     

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    In this example - measured using webpagetest and Pat Meenan's great SPOF-O-Matic Chrome extension - page load time is significantly impacted by the third party performance issue.  The kicker is that even though this isn't your fault directly, your customers will still likely hold you responsible for the degradation - and likely move on to the closest competitor - which is just a click away.

     

    Compounding the complexity associated with Web app delivery are the ever-increasing end-user experience expectations.  We have talked about this at length in other posts.  If we don't meet those end-user expectations there are consequences.  Real User Monitoring (RUM) made it easy to correlate performance to business metrics such as conversion, bounce or abandonment rates.  Whether its data from vendors like Torbit or from companies like Walmart one thing is clear - the slower your pages the higher your abandonment and bounce rates and the lower your conversions.  In other words, Web performance impacts the business. As far back as 2006, Amazon noted that speed matters. In particular, "Every 100ms delay costs 1% of sales".

    EdgeBanner.pngI'm pleased to invite you to our 6th Akamai Edge 2013 this October 7 - 11 in Washington, D.C. at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort and Conference Center. Join us and meet up with more than 1,000 of your industry peers and our best line-up yet of industry innovators, as we create the experiences that to drive a Faster Forward World

    Our Biggest and Best Customer Conference Yet! 
    More sessions, tracks and networking opportunities that have all been designed to provide a broader and more diverse perspective for conference attendees. 

    What's New To Help Fuel Your Innovation! 
    This Year we'll be offering a Developers' Track - dedicated to technical professionals seeking to develop new experiences leveraging our platform. We'll have sessions on how to bring applications to market more quickly and intimate developer labs giving you detailed insight on how to get the most out of new features in our platform. We're also pleased to introduce the Web Security Symposium, designed for security professionals. Security leaders and your peers will help you think about strategies for securing your organization's data, sites and applications against the ever-evolving threats of today's online environment. 

    We're extremely excited about the agenda and the lineup of well-known industry luminaries and tech experts who will be presenting at Edge 2013. So much so that we're introducing new conference discounts to help make attending Edge as easy as possible for all Akamai customers. 

    Three Ways to Save: 
    • New Customer Discount: If your company first purchased Akamai services after January 1, 2013, you're eligible to receive a $300 discount on the Full Conference pass. Enter code: 50NEW2013 
    • Edge Alumni Discount: If you've attended an Akamai conference before now you're eligible to receive US$300 off your conference seat. Enter code: ALUM2013 
    • Team Discount: Visit Akamai Edge 2012 With Your Team of 3 or more and save 50% per person. Enter code: GROUP2013 

    From customer innovation stories, industry panels, technical labs, partner and government forums to Web security and developers' tracks, there's something for everyone at Edge 2013. Space is limited and by invitation only so we encourage you not to wait and REGISTER TODAY

    Join us and be inspired. I look forward to seeing you there! 

    Brad Rinklin 
    Chief Marking Officer, Akamai

    The holiday season is already creeping up and by far will be the most vital online shopping period of the year for retailers. Thanksgiving week will no doubt once again present one of the largest online shopping weeks of the year.  Now, more than ever, time is literally money when it comes to Web performance.  

     

    As online retailers face another big holiday shopping season, they have to make sure they are ready for everything and anything that will hit their site once the critical holiday season begins.  Even a minute of downtime can cost thousands and thousands of dollars and can damage the bottom line and the brand for years to come.


    Supporting the majority of today's leading global retailers, Akamai has the expertise and technology to help retailers simplify the process of preparing their e-commerce site for Black Friday as well as helping them to deliver on every big shopping day before and after with situational performance - so that any customer, anywhere can make a purchase as soon as inspiration strikes.


    Starting this week, Akamai will be launching a series of "Crush The Rush" Holiday Readiness Webinars to help retailers understand how to properly prepare their site for the biggest shopping season to-date.  Participants will learn first hand how leading retailers have deployed Akamai Solutions specially tuned for holiday traffic, ensuring their sites are scalable and reliable as customers flood their online store.


    The "Crush the Rush" series consists of three Webinars focused on different topics relevant to preparing for the rush of the online holiday season.  The first one will be held on July 24th on Situational Performance.  Participants will come away with clear understanding of why looking at performance from an end-user perspective is key for those who wish to "Crush the Rush" this holiday season.  Our speaker, Lorenz Jakober, will be discussing what is Real-User Monitoring (RUM), synthetic vs. RUM testing and the pros and cons for each, why optimizing beyond average load times matters and how performance optimization helps meet rising consumer expectations.


    Following Situational Performance, we will also be discussing how Akamai Services & Support engage with the industry's leading brands as well as Web Security and Risk Mitigation throughout the Webinar series.  Our speakers will be sharing recaps and best practices that retailers should be aware of for this holiday season.  Follow us here to find out more details on the "Crush the Rush" Holiday Readiness Webinar Series.  We want to help you beat the rush to the holiday rush.


    Akamai at IRCE 2013

    Two weeks ago, a large number of eCommerce professionals converged in Chicago for IRCE 2013.  I was one of the presenters to talk about "Building m-commerce: Different approaches, different outcomes."

    There were plenty of instances throughout the conference where the growing mobile traffic and revenue numbers highlighted the importance of delivering fast, quality mobile experiences to consumers.  As most of us know - fast, quality mobile experiences are better for business.

     

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    Yet as most of us also know, delivering fast, quality mobile experiences isn't exactly easy.  The challenges associated with mobile performance are well documented (browsers, network, devices, etc.).  For those who are interested in diving a little deeper into the topic, I recommend watching Ilya Grigorik's Google I/O talk - Mobile Performance from the Radio Up: Battery, Latency and Bandwidth Optimization.

    The fact remains shoppers expect fast, quality mobile Web and app experiences and they generally don't know or care about the technological challenges associated with delivering them.  In addition, as we start to think about the latest techniques to engage mobile users such as Responsive Web Design (RWD) these challenges become even greater.  Responsive Web Design is a Web development approach that suggests Web pages should respond to the context in which they're loaded (primarily screen size) and change their user interface accordingly.

    So what does delivering large, complex pages to mobile devices mean from an end-user's perspective?  Below is a snapshot of the experience of an end-user visiting a US retailer's RWD site's home page on a variety of different devices/networks.  The conclusion is obvious.  The delivery of a relatively small 700KB site to a mobile device, over wireless networks, has resulted in serious performance shortcomings.

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    Optimizing RWD site performance is not easy and requires considerable expertise and resources however.  As mentioned earlier, RWD pages contain the HTML required to display all versions of a Web site, including both mobile and desktop views.  CSS and JavaScript run in the browser and hide or modify the content to fit the screen size.  On smartphones, this often means the browser downloads the entire content needed to display the desktop site, only to have CSS/JS hide the vast majority of it.

    The first step to deliver fast, quality RWD sites is to focus on the actual page and the associated objects delivered to the end-user.  As Web performance optimization guru Steve Souder likes to point out: "80-90 percent of end-user response time is spent on the frontend. Start there."

    There are a variety of options available to developers looking to overcome the challenges associated with delivering heavy RWD sites.  To start with, move content as close to the end-user as possible (i.e. use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)) and leverage optimal delivery mechanisms such as SPDY that are particularly relevant for wireless networks.  Next, focus on the components of the RWD application; the HTML, images, JavaScript and CSS objects.  To deliver faster pages, focus on:

    • Reducing the number of requests
    • Reducing the number of bytes
    • Accelerating rendering

    For a more detailed view of how to actually reduce the number of requests & bytes and accelerate rendering download Akamai's Front-End Optimization primer.

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    Independent of your approach to engaging mobile users, it is always worth to remember the following:

    • Deliver consistent, fast, quality web and application experience
    • Adopt your customers' perspective
    • Optimize for mobile first
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    Maximize Your Rich Media Delivery Investment

    We all know that delivering high quality video experiences to end-users' increases engagement, reduces abandonment and benefits the business. 

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    To learn more about this topic read Chris Nicholson's post entitled "New Video Quality Study Examines Causes of Viewer Behavior."

    With the 2013 NAB Show just around the corner, media companies, however, should not forget that, for the most part, end-users discover and consume video based on where the video is displayed. One could argue that the Websites and native apps that act as containers are as important as the videos themselves. 

    When it comes to delivering quality Web and mobile applications to end-users, a lot of the same challenges apply as for video delivery. For example the proliferation of mobile devices has completely changed the way end-users interact with your online experiences. We all know that mobile is big and becoming more important by the day. Anyone that doubts this just needs to look at the images below contrasting the last two papal inaugurations in 2005 and 2013, respectively:
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    Image Credits: NBC News / Luca Bruno / AP & Michael Sohn / AP

    MobileRider Gains Competitive Edge with Akamai

    The eyes of the extreme skiing and snowboarding worlds will be on Vail, Colo., and Kirkwood, Calif., starting today for the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships and Swatch Freeride World Tour 2013 presented by The North Face. Viewers around the world will be able to enjoy live HD streams of both events on Internet-connected devices thanks to Akamai partner, MobileRider.

    Experts in delivering live and on-demand content over the Internet and across multiple platforms, MobileRider uses Akamai's Sola Sphere content delivery platform for all of its live and on-demand video requirements, from action sports events like snowboarding, skiing, surfing and paintball, to major concerts and artists such as U2, Madonna and KISS. For the U.S. Open and Freeride events, MobileRider is deploying turnkey packages that include satellite transmission and encoding, delivery, and media management that support the quality, custom look and functionality that content owners and viewers have come to require and expect.
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    Satellite antennas and moguls at the FIS Freestyle International at Utah's Deer Valley.

    "Akamai gives MobileRider a competitive edge," according to Noah Hollander, the company's COO. "We went through a long and arduous search for a strategic content delivery partner, and discovered that Akamai's innovation is helping us offer the best possible services to our customers."

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