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How Akamai is driving growth in APAC

Akamai's managing director for the region outlines the company’s growth journey, how it sets itself apart from competitors, and its strategies to drive the next phase of growth

The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region has been a hotspot of growth for Akamai, a pioneer in content delivery networks (CDNs) that publishers, broadcasters, and other companies in the media and entertainment industry have come to rely on for delivering content to their customers.

The company recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, which also marked two decades of operations in the APAC region where it expanded its business in tandem with the evolution of the internet and increasing digital adoption.

As cyber threats continued to rise, Akamai also bolstered its security portfolio, which includes a cloud-based web application firewall that disrupted the web application security market, along with distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) mitigation services.

Earlier this year, the company ventured into cloud computing with Akamai Connected Cloud, a distributed cloud computing platform that leverages its extensive infrastructure footprint, spanning over 4,100 locations across more than 130 countries.

In an interview with Computer Weekly, Parimal Pandya, Akamai’s managing director for APAC and Japan, outlines the company’s growth journey in the region, how it stacks up against competitors, and its strategies for driving the next phase of growth.

How is Akamai doing in the APAC region and where are the hotspots of growth?

Parimal Pandya: There are very few companies in our space that have been around for 25 years, especially in Asia where we’ve been around for 20 years.

It’s an amazing story and it’s also very humbling in some ways. What we’ve experienced in Asia and the journey that we’ve taken mirrors the journey that all the markets we serve have gone through – the adoption of broadband, mobile phones, cloud computing and digitisation of almost everything we do today.

With those developments, we’ve seen our role in people’s lives expand, whether it’s watching a cricket or rugby game or buying something online. It’s been amazing to see the journey that we as a society have taken over the years.

But each country in the region is also unique. While we talk about being global, we’re also increasingly hyperlocal. I’m proud to say that the business we’ve built rests on the shoulders of every customer in every industry in the markets we operate in, which begs the question of where do we go from here?

The size and scale that we have in Asia are unparalleled. There’s probably only a handful of companies that do more and have deeper and wider reach than us in Asia. Our portfolio of services is also broader than that of others. Our Connected Cloud offering, for example, is our effort to be the one-stop shop for you to build, run, deliver and accelerate your applications while protecting your applications and IT infrastructure.

You've got some of the biggest companies with the deepest pockets and perhaps the strongest technology chops in Asia. We are lucky to be working with almost all of them, and that has helped to fuel our growth.
Parimal Pandya, Akamai

We have a wide range of capabilities to take the burden off the major corporations that we work with, without having to worry about resilience, security, scale and capacity, enabling them to focus on innovating and serving their customers.

We will continue to invest and aggressively drive our business, whether it’s content delivery, which we’ve been doing for 25 years; security, which is now our fastest-growing business; or cloud computing, which we are getting into with a vision of how it’s going to change.

We’re excited about the journey we’ve taken, including the roots and relationships we’ve established and where the industry is heading in each of our three lines of business. We think we can help organisations innovate, serve their customers, and in the process, reduce costs and improve their profits, which is what everybody wants.

I’d like to zoom in on the three lines of business where Akamai has different competitors, whether it’s the hyperscalers in CDN and cloud computing, or Cloudflare in security. How is Akamai differentiating itself from the competition?

Pandya: Let me take the questions on a few lines. First of all, we should ask ourselves why we want to be in all of those businesses. And why do we believe that we can be unique and provide value to our customers? The answer lies in our DNA, which is our ability to run large, complex systems and infrastructure at scale with reliability and enterprise-grade quality.

For example, if you think about what we did to deliver content to as close to the end user as possible to provide a better experience, that same vision led us to do the same with security. Protecting infrastructure at the edge before an attack gets to your datacentre is something we not only do well but can also integrate with our delivery capabilities.

When it comes to cloud computing, we are not trying to get into the cloud computing business as a ‘me too’ and do what others have done. I think our vision, again, is deeply rooted in our DNA, which is the fact that we can build and deploy distributed infrastructure.

Another point is that we’ve almost always been driven by where our customers have taken us. If you look at our company’s history, every innovation we brought to market was led by a marquee customer who was a trailblazer in their industry. They know we’re good at this and have asked us to solve their problems. We’ve been able to go toe-to-toe with those customers, which has allowed us to build world-class content delivery and acceleration services and compute capabilities that are part of our portfolio. We’re fortunate to work with some of the most innovative and ambitious companies in the world and that has, in turn, helped us to stay innovative.

Could you give me a sense of how your APAC customers are using your mix of services? Do they tend to use CDN services more than security services?

Pandya: As you can imagine, content delivery and acceleration has been our bread and butter for the longest time. We’ve built a reputation as the best-in-class and most reliable. So, when people say, Akamai just works and they can forget about it, it’s a good thing, but at the same time we don’t want them to forget about us.

I was with a bank the other day and they wanted to consolidate a myriad of different technologies in their security infrastructure, and somebody said they should talk to Akamai. Those are the kinds of feedback I hear.

With content delivery, we work with major gaming providers to help them deliver games at scale to their consumers and provide a great user experience because that’s what matters. We also help them secure their infrastructure.

It’s the same with video streaming. Let’s say you’re watching content, whether it’s live or on-demand – we make sure we can provide a high quality, seamless experience at scale. With application acceleration, you also want to be assured that that your online transactions are fast and secure.

Those are examples of how Akamai is used for application delivery and acceleration, whether it be for delivering games, videos or rich interactive applications. The same folks might also want us to protect them against DDoS attacks, application intrusions and bots. API [application programming interface] security is also a huge priority right now where people are figuring out which APIs are secure, which ones are not, and how to protect them. That’s another area where customers have come to us for, and the same customers can also use Akamai for content delivery and acceleration.

We are not trying to get into the cloud computing business as a ‘me too’ and do what others have done. I think our vision, again, is deeply rooted in our DNA, which is the fact that we can build and deploy distributed infrastructure
Parimal Pandya, Akamai

With compute, we have customers that are trying to run a certain workload at the edge. In those cases, a centralised datacentre doesn’t work because the latency is too high, and the consumer experience isn’t ideal. They’ve asked if we can run their VMs [virtual machines] or containers at the edge on the hundreds of thousands of servers we have everywhere. Those customers can also use our DDoS protection, application firewall, content delivery and acceleration and compute services.

I’ve just walked you through a journey of the different ways a customer might use one, two or all of our services on any given day. What’s going to be our edge is to be able to provide unique services that the largest and most innovative companies in the world cannot find elsewhere.

I’d like to dive deeper into the compute piece. It’s been more than six months since Connected Cloud was announced. What’s the uptake in APAC? What sorts of workloads are customers running at your edge? With more companies doing AI inferencing at the edge, is Akamai investing in infrastructure to support such emerging workloads?

Pandya: Our initial traction across the globe is being led by Asia where companies tend to be more entrepreneurial and are more open to innovative solutions. We see lots of adoption across the different countries we operate in. We see adoption from digital natives, which are more nimble and agile.

There’s also adoption for use cases that require serving to a distributed consumer or client base for workloads that can benefit from being close to the end user. We’ve seen adoption among gaming companies, crypto companies and social media platforms. Sometimes, it’s just been plain simple – they want to migrate away from other suppliers because their compute bill is too high.

We’ve built our systems such that we can serve content in the fastest way to where the user is. Similarly, we can seamlessly spin up VMs or containers for your application based on demand, so that you as an administrator don’t have to worry about all that complexity.

We have a very aggressive roadmap and large investments carved out for building our infrastructure. The first is to build core sites of massive datacentres with a full range of capabilities that we’re rolling out in all the major markets across the globe. In Asia, we have infrastructure in Australia, India, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan. We also have plans to roll out in New Zealand, other parts of Southeast Asia and South Korea, covering a wide gamut of core markets we serve.

At the edge, we can leverage existing or new infrastructure. With our points-of-presence across the globe, we have the ability to run a VM or a container at the edge. It’s sort of a two-pronged architecture where you have core sites in major markets and distributed sites that are farther out.

In terms of AI, it’s clear that those workloads are going to be compute heavy. We’ll have to figure out what those workloads are going to be, and the architecture and compute requirements they would impose. What’s going to stay in the core and at the edge? How do we design infrastructure that allows for performance at scale and resilience? There’s a lot of work being done there, and I expect us to make more announcements as we go along.

You mentioned about Asia being a high-growth market. Can you give me a sense of how fast the market is growing?

Pandya: Unfortunately, we can’t discuss specific percentages and you probably appreciate that we don’t break out numbers by region or geography as a public company. What I can say is that Asia has been a big driver of growth for many years.

In Asia, we operate in 14 countries which we have bucketed into six regions. Each region has unique dynamics but one thing that’s common is the massive adoption of mobile phones and broadband internet. There’s a proliferation of applications and services that are riding on that infrastructure to serve everything we need in our daily lives.

A lot of that has happened in the last decade, but things really accelerated during the pandemic. You’ve also got some of the biggest companies with the deepest pockets and perhaps the strongest technology chops in Asia. We are lucky to be working with almost all of them, and that has helped to fuel our growth.

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