Akamai CTO: Smart devices drive hyper-connectivity on cloud
By Carol Ko 24-Jul-2012
Hyper-connectivity, characterized by an "always-on" population, is becoming commonplace as mobile devices continue to penetrate the community. When conjured up by IT mega trends like cloud computing, online media, mobility, hyper-connectivity is particularly transformative in the enterprise space.
Is hyper-connectivity partly a result of the wider adoption of cloud computing? "I would say that hyper-connectivity is first driven mostly by the devices -- the availability and connectivity of the devices," says Alex Caro (pictured), chief technology officer and vice president of services, Asia Pacific Japan, Akamai Technologies.
"Cloud computing is a slightly different thing. Now that you have people accessing lots of data, how do you provide that data? You can provide it from a centralized data center, or you can provide it from using a cloud facility. But one does not necessarily equal the other," he adds.
Currently working as Akamai's CTO and vice president of services, Caro joined Akamai Technologies in 1999 as a research scientist to develop software technologies. He later served as corporate CIO to lead the group's strategy, development, and operation of the applications and infrastructure for the company.
In an interview with Asia Cloud Forum's Carol Ko, Akamai's Caro elaborated on the concept of hyper-connectivity within the enterprise, four key trends CIOs should continue to pay attention to, and the current state of cloud adoption within Akamai Technologies.
Asia Cloud Forum: Is hyper-connectivity partly a result of cloud adoption?
"[Apple] just go and sell devices. And it's on the other side -- the application providers -- who will have to react to this additional popularity."
-- Alex Caro, CTO and VP of Services, Akamai Technologies
Alex Caro: If you have lots of devices, and lots of users using those devices, and the centralized data center doesn't give you good performance either because it's far away, or because it can't scale, then at that point, somebody who's running an IT department will say "What are my options here? Do I keep growing my data center, do I add more data centers, or do I consider something like a cloud?" So it's a combination of factors that may lead you to go to do things in the cloud. It's a result of how you react to do things in pervasive connectivity.
For example, when Apple goes and sells many millions of devices, which they sell in a month, they don't go about consulting people and say "Can you applications handle this load?" They just go and sell devices. And it's on the other side -- the application providers -- who will have to react to this additional popularity.
How is cloud computing driving hyper-connectivity within the enterprise space?
Caro: If you think about hyper-connectivity within an enterprise, you'll have a lot of employees that now want to be able to do their work across a number of devices . And you have companies that are making use of those devices to enable a more mobile workforce. So those are the two things that drive the hyper-connectivity in enterprises.
Now an IT manager in an enterprise will need to provide a particular enterprise service not to customers now but employees. He'll need to figure out "Do I do it from a central location from my classic data center, do I do it from multiple data centers? Or is there a better solution because I really can't predict where my workforces are going to be located at any point in time?" And employees, when they need to get their work done, are not going to necessarily wait around for slow connections -- that's going to really frustrate them in some cases, and are actually negative to the businesses. That's where the drive to look at things like cloud computing also comes in to the enterprise.
What key trends should enterprise CIOs focus on today?
Caro: There are four things that are converging today that require the attention of a CIO or somebody who is running a web-enabled site or a web-enabled site business:
You've got lots of media moving onto the internet. That's really going to become one of the dominant channels in the media.
You've got the ability to now run lots of interesting workloads in the cloud.
You've got your end users consuming your product, whether it's a site or it's media consumed on a variety of devices -- most of them mobile. And we believe that most traffic on the internet over the next five years is going to be media traffic. We believe that most users who are accessing the internet over the course of the next five years will be mobile devices.
And then the last thing is you got security -- the more you open up your business model, the more you open up your revenue stream, and make it internet-enabled, the more that there's going to be security threats to your business.
You put those four things together and they create a challenging environment for the CIO. So the takeaway is you need to understand how your business fits into these different trends, and how you can make the best use of them.
If you look at Akamai -- I don't want to go too much into a marketing pitch for Akamai -- but we are also looking at that same thing, and figuring how we can provide value in each of those areas.
How is Akamai adopting cloud computing internally?
"[T]here's really no application, eventually, that cannot run on the cloud."
-- Alex Caro, CTO and VP of Services, Akamai Technologies
Caro: I think it all depends on the type of data and the benefit you'll get out of a cloud application.
Because we built the cloud, we obviously use it ourselves mostly for our internal websites and for our externally facing website. We also use part of the Akamai cloud for connectivity. Our VPN actually runs over Akamai. We also use third-party cloud applications. For instance, we use Salesforce.com as our CRM system, some of our HR (human resources) applications, for example, are also in the cloud.
As a CIO, whenever you have a new application, you have to think very carefully and say, "What do I need to do? Do I do it on premise? Do I do it in the cloud?" That has to be part of every single choice that you make. For some applications, you are not going to put on the cloud because the data is very sensitive, or you don't have the assurances. But other cloud-based applications, if you can have a good quality provider then they make a lot of sense.
Will Akamai say "no" to certain cloud-based applications?
Caro: For Akamai's intellectual property assets, we are not going to put that into the cloud any time soon. Because that's the essence of Akamai's investments. But there is certainly lots of other information that we put in the cloud, and we have very vigorous standards that we follow with our providers, so that the information doesn't leak, and there's proper management of that information.
Like I said, we use Salesforce.com as our CRM system. Our customer IPs and all the customer information are very critical to Akamai, and we certainly don't want to lose that. But in working with Salesforce.com, we have been able to develop a very clear understanding of what the security mechanisms are, how our data is protected, and they've done that to our satisfaction.
I would say there's really no application, eventually, that cannot run on the cloud. It is all a matter of the degrees when you are willing to give something up into the cloud, lose a little bit of control, but also gain a little bit of the benefits that you gain from the cloud, which is scalability, you don't have to essentially manage an IT department with all sorts of skills because that's offloaded, but you lose some control.