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Ex-Akamai man: Stop being faithful to your CDN

You need multiple relationships to perform well

Open ... and Shut Many of the benefits of cloud computing are lost in translation as enterprises attempt to force the "new wine" of cloud's flexibility into the "old bottles" of traditional data centers. By running a cloud environment within one's data center, the full benefits of infinitely scalable and flexible infrastructure fade, as Amazon has argued and as Cedexis, a French company with a growing roster of big-name customers, aims to prove.

Just as many parents seem to think their kids are above average, many IT professionals delude themselves into thinking their infrastructure – cloudy or otherwise – is high-performance. But often this isn't the case. This may be particularly true of the web, even despite content delivery networks (CDN) like Akamai and Limelight that help IT professionals juice their websites to run as quickly and efficiently as possible.

But what if Akamai isn't the best performing CDN at a given time and place? Or if you're running on Amazon Web Services as the back-end infrastructure, who's to say that Amazon East is always the optimal place for your application to run?

Enter Cedexis. The company was founded in 2009 by Akamai veterans Julien Coulon and Marty Kagan, along with a group of infrastructure specialists from Akamai, Cisco, and elsewhere. As content providers grew anxious about putting all of their eggs in one CDN basket, Coulon and team started to think about how to ensure traffic was routed to the best possible resource, no matter the vendor.

This came to a head when Stephane Enten, then at web video company Dailymotion, called Coulon to lament that his service was working on some ISPs but not others. Enten joined Cedexis as vice president of services in EMEA, and helped the company work through the mechanics of a pan-vendor approach to web performance optimisation.

Since that time, Cedexis has become profitable on its early French customer base, as Coulon told me on a call earlier this week. The company now counts more than 190 customers that include Lacoste, Dior, Le Monde, and others. Cedexis is Franco-American company... Its headquarters are in Portland, Oregon and it has a secondary office in Paris, France.

Here's how it works. Cedexis offers companies improved analytics for their site if they install a small javascript tag on their websites. This allows Cedexis to capture data on the site's performance, including its associated cloud infrastructure, CDNs, etc. Cedexis now has data coming from 32,000 networks and collects over 1 billion performance measurements per day.

This data then allows Cedexis to determine optimal infrastructure/networks for particular sites in real time, all of the time. The company offers a neutral audit service, which lets a web operator know how much better they could be doing in terms of performance. Importantly, Cedexis doesn't resell CDN or other vendors' services, so that it can maintain its neutrality.

But the real value (and money for Cedexis) comes from its OpenMix product, which is a DNS-based Global Traffic Management/Global Server Load Balancing tool that operates in real-time to intelligently route inbound website requests. As Cedexis explains: "Requests are automatically routed to the nearest of our geographically and logically dispersed data centres, where dynamic decisions are made on each request based on a blend of data feeds and custom algorithms."

Cedexis doesn't broker these relationships. The buyer still needs to have a relationship with the different CDNs and cloud providers. But Cedexis can facilitate these and make it easy to see where their traffic should be going.

This doesn't mean that a user doesn't have control over where their data goes. A German website operator, for example, may not want her traffic being routed through a US-based CDN, or to touch Amazon's AWS Brazil node. The operator can determine what her policies are, and the OpenMix system lives within those constraints.

That's where reality kicks in. The upside to Cedexis is that users retain control of their traffic. But that's also potentially the downside, as politics and security concerns (real and imagined) could get in the way of significant performance improvements.

Ultimately, I suspect the world will gravitate toward the somewhat unfettered freedom that the cloud promises, where applications and network traffic are moved to the resources best able to handle them at the lowest possible cost. Instead of buying into AWS or Akamai or any particular vendor, meta-vendors will likely arise that take care of routing to the right resources.

The cloud, then, could become a free-market cloud capitalist's dream. Ironic, then, that one of the companies best positioned to capitalise on this shift hails from France, the bastion of socialism. Quelle horreur! ®

Matt Asay is senior vice president of business development at Nodeable, offering systems management for managing and analyzing cloud-based data. He was formerly SVP of biz dev at HTML5 start-up Strobe and chief operating officer of Ubuntu commercial operation Canonical. With more than a decade spent in open source, Asay served as Alfresco's general manager for the Americas and vice president of business development, and he helped put Novell on its open source track. Asay is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). His column, Open...and Shut, appears three times a week on The Register.

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