Cable & Wireless this month becomes the first major communications carrier to integrate edge computing technologies into its network as it relaunches Digital Island, the Web hoster and content distribution network it recently acquired.
The move puts Cable & Wireless into direct competition with companies such as Akamai Technologies, and demonstrates for the first time what the technology underlying content distribution can do for a large carrier.
Simply enhancing Web sites appears to be a thing of the past: The new set of services that Cable & Wireless offers enterprise customers optimizes performance of their corporate software applications. Cable & Wireless is also embracing large new media customers by offering content peering, a service designed to give content providers access to optimized delivery of Web pages, movies and other content. With this dual offering, the London-based carrier is going after competitors such as WorldCom with renewed vigor.
Cable & Wireless launched its 2Way Services on Oct. 4. These services enable customers such as banks to use Cable & Wireless to exchange information - credit card histories, for example - with other banks. While Cable & Wireless is not getting into systems integration, it wants to be the preferred carrier to facilitate IP-based data transactions between large businesses by offering a new generation of intelligent services.
"The backbone piece brings economies of scale to bear, but while owning a backbone reduces cost per transaction, it doesnt allow us to do anything new," said Tim Wilson, chief marketing officer of Cable & Wireless Digital Island unit. "They recognized they want to accelerate value-added services on top of that structure, including managed hosting and content delivery technologies."
The selling point of 2Way Services is flexibility. Cable & Wireless said it will be able to custom fit enterprise customers with solutions, based on what Wilson likened to Lego blocks.
For example, a payment gateway from Cable & Wireless was built into a two-way financial service called 2 Transact. Building blocks allowing transaction settlements and payments in multiple currencies were added to the system. The gateway is sponsored by Bank of Bermuda, Barclays Bank and FDR.
Akamai execs said businesses will need to clear some of Cable & Wireless new services with their software providers. "Network-level integration is trivial," said Kieran Taylor, Akamais director of product marketing. "Our customers demand application integration, as evidenced by our relationships with Oracle, IBM and BEA [Systems]."
Akamai doesnt need to own a network to be able to guarantee the quality of such applications performance, Taylor said, but it does need to tighten integration with software vendors.