Today, the CDN market is very competitive, more than in the past. However, the present competition is much stronger and smarter, than the past players. A few years ago, Akamai had to compete with the likes of Panther Express, Vital Stream, Bitgravity, Limelight and a few others. The old players were general based CDNs competing against Akamai on a feature by feature basis, or at least they tried, whether it was VOD delivery, live streaming, large file delivery, software downloads or small file delivery. In the majority of cases, if not in all cases, Akamai had the better feature set and solution. Fast forward to the present, and although Akamai is killing it in all the financial metrics, it faces its toughest competition yet. The competition are highly focused CDN Specialist aiming for chunks of Akamai’s business, whether its ecommerce, mobile, security and so on. Akamai’s five toughest ecompetitors is what I refer to as the Strong Five CDNs.
Strong Five CDNs
- EdgeCast: General Purpose CDN with 2nd most extensive CDN feature set
- Level 3: Large scale streaming and media delivery services CDN
- Incapsula: CyberSecurity CDN offering the most robust DDoS Mitigation Platform in the industry
- Instart Logic: Software-defined Application Delivery for eCommerce/high resolution image delivery over wireless last mile
- Aryaka Networks: WAN as-a-service mixing CDN and legacy WAN replacement technology
Why is Akamai’s competition tougher than in the past? The CDN Specialist invest all their resources into a specific subset of the CDN feature set. This focus enables the Specialist to out-innovate the competition, including Akamai. The CDN Specialist have an understanding that competing against Akamai across the entire CDN feature set is a recipe for disaster. EdgeCast and Limelight are the only two general based CDNs that can compete with Akamai across the entire CDN feature set, or least a big part of it. EdgeCast is in the midst of adding infrastructure, web application firewall, and a DDoS Mitigation Platform. What happens if Verizon decides to invest a few hundred million dollars into EdgeCast server base? It’s possible one day that EdgeCast may surpass Akamai’s server count. Verizon can afford to add 250k servers across its CDN infrastructure quite easily, especially after booking more than $12B in net income last year.
On one end there is EdgeCast, and on the other end there is Aryaka Networks, Incapsula, Level 3 and Instart Logic. Together, the five CDNs stand to grab some market share from Akamai. Aryaka Networks is the leading WAAS provider. They are the Akamai of the WAAS Market, dominating this sector by a long shot, having years of experience working in this segment, and not to mention a few hundred customers. Aryaka is a B2B CDN, and Akamai’s recent partnership with Cisco highlights the importance of this segment. However, I believe Aryaka is too far ahead for anyone to catch up to them at this point. Next, we have Incapsula, the most innovative CyberSecurity CDN in the industry. In terms of security breadth, sky’s the limit for Incapsula since they are a part of Imperva. For Incapsula, it’s only question of how deep they want to to go into the security stack.
Level 3, Incapsula and Instart Logic
Then we have Level 3, the strong player in media services, and one of a handful of CDNs that can stream the Olympics, Super Bowl or Oscars. Finally, we have Instart Logic, who has completely re-invented the way a web applications are delivered, and streamed to mobile devices and tablets. Instart Logic has developed a new way of optimizing the delivery of high resolution images, and accelerating ecommerce websites over the wireless last mile. Instart Logic created an intelligent software layer that leverages CDN infrastructure, VM techology, and browser caching optimization techniques. Their technology is a game changer that replaces the traditional technology silos of CDN, DSA and FEO. Akamai has a tough road ahead of them, and with $1B in cash, they need to get creative and make some risky acquisitions. Akamai vs the Strong Five CDNs