Akamai aims to speed up mobile video

Tom Leighton, co-founder and recently announced CEO-elect of cloud platform specialist Akamai Technologies, has revealed that the company is working on technologies better to handle mobile video.

Speaking to the MIT Technology Review, Leighton said that Akamai is looking at services which will prioritise different kinds of mobile Web traffic and use distributed devices for storing or ‘caching’ video content depending on what device is being used to access that content.

He suggested that the performance of mobile devices, especially on cellular networks, could be be very poor. “If you look at download speeds from top commercial sites, they’re equivalent to landline speeds nine years ago – that’s like the Dark Ages of the Internet. Users expect it to be like TV – bang, it’s on. Change a channel and it just changes. They think the Web is supposed to work that way,” he said.

According to Leighton, Akamai’s new site performance service – Aqua Ion – launched in October, would speed things up. “If a site is picture-rich, we can reduce the amount of bandwidth you need to get served. With Aqua Ion, when you go to a website, you actually go to an Akamai server on the network. We detect what device you are using, and we know how well it’s connected. We will compress the picture or other object depending on what kind of device and connection you have. That relieves the network and provides a better experience for the user,” he explained.

He said that Akamai was working on this for HTML to find chunks of HTML that were common from one page to another, break it into little pieces, and find the pieces that could be cached which had probably been seen before. “This might account for 95 per cent of a Web page. Then we can figure out, with good accuracy, what content you will be looking for when you visit a Web page based on usage profiles which include IP address, location, access speed, and type of device. And we pre-stage all that content on a server near you, or better yet on your device. It’s really fast because what you are looking for might already be on your device,” he suggested.

In terms of speeding up video, Leighton noted that for major sporting events, consumers were using Akamai technology without knowing it. “The video is being delivered from an Akamai server near you. The next generation of that technology will make greater use of end-users to distribute content. We call it client-assisted delivery. If you have a well-connected, well-powered machine, your machine can be used to send the information to a neighbour. Then we don’t have to send all the information to each neighbour individually,” he said, adding that currently, 30 million devices, typically laptops or desktops, were doing this. “But there are billions of devices out there. We would like to move this into tablets and other well-connected devices. We want to be on every device – anything that has the right connectivity, and the right CPU and the right memory. This enables us to achieve great scale, lower cost, and high quality,” he advised.

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