If you ask Speedera Networks executives how they view the content distribution marketplace, they will tell you that the race is down to two horses, Speedera and Akamai Technologies, and they say Speedera is the channel partners best bet.
In August, the company formalized its Speedera Fusion reseller program, offering data-center owners the ability to resell various edge-based managed services. The program contrasts with Akamais strategy of selling directly to the customers of Web hosting companies.
"Hosters view Akamai as a threat," said Gordon Smith, Speederas vice president of marketing. "Especially with its latest product, EdgeSuite, Akamai is taking up more bandwidth and cuts on the number of servers, and is pushing hosters to a marginal position just as they are trying to move up the food chain."
Akamai executives disagree, pointing out that Akamais reseller program for Web hosters is growing.
"Akamais indirect channels contributed 22 percent of second-quarter revenue for 2001. That percentage has been increasing each quarter," said Akamai spokesman Jeff Young. "Akamai added several new EdgeSuite resellers including EDS, IBM, Inflow and XO Communications last quarter, to a list that already includes Biznews24, Internap [Network Services], Savvis [Communications], SiteSmith and others."
Speedera officials say Akamais archrival, Digital Island, is also hostile to other Web hosters. A large hoster, Digital Island is being purchased by Cable & Wireless and will become a bigger direct competitor to many network and data-center owners.
But because Speedera increasingly relies on Web hosters to sell content distribution network services, Speedera execs say it is different from Akamai, and that their company has evolved far beyond simply moving objects to caches colocated in partner networks. Where Akamai is gathering more enterprise-customer business with EdgeSuite, which uses XML markup schemes to Akamaize applications and Web content, Speedera supports 12 different services on the edge. And the range of Speedera services is wide, from streaming to secure sockets layer (SSL).
The ingredients to make Speedera more of a distributed network-based managed services provider than a content distributor in a traditional sense were there from day one - the company launched with two services, content distribution and global load balancing, both using the same intelligent routing platform.
The technology that Speedera uses does not raise the same red flags with the hard-line Internet engineering brain trust, normally suspicious of "intelligent" routing schemes.
"One of my last acts as Metromedia Fiber Network CTO was to sign a deal with Speedera," said Paul Vixie, now CEO of PAIX.net, a company running neutral Internet exchanges. Vixie is also in charge of the non-profit foundation maintaining Berkeley Internet Name Domain, the Domain Name System (DNS) protocol that supports the majority of transactions on the Internet. "They, like Akamai and UltraDNS, are capable of using what I call Stupid DNS Tricks for proximity management, but they can also turn this off and do things for proximity that are a lot smarter than DNS-craft."
Vixie is critical of Akamai and Digital Island because he says the approach of storing Internet-based information geographically close to the end user is philosophically wrong. Proximity, in Internet terms, is a flexible phenomenon, he says. A connection to a server next-door could be slower than a connection to a server on the other side of the universe, if the pipe going to the server next-door is clogged with traffic at a given moment.
Speederas technology is closer to Vixies vision of a fat-source network, because it has enough intelligence to move traffic, depending on the "Internet weather," if thats what Web hoster partners choose to do.
Technological and business accessibility make Speedera a non-threatening choice for Web hosters, even if Speedera offers services that compete with their own portfolios of managed services. It appears Speedera partners, such as Globix, trust the company not to compete with them for their own customers. Globix recently signed up to resell Speederas services, including SSL and monitoring.
"Globix has over 3,600 customers and we have a worldwide sales team of 210, many of them in different countries," said Philip Levinson, vice president and general manager of Globixs EarthCache division. "We are not overly concerned with Speedera being a strong competitor, plus we see them as our partner."