Is Google taking on Akamai? …not really.

The past 9th of December Venturebeat published a rather controversial article stating that Google is quietly launching its own CDN to compete against Akamai. News spread fast, and now Google’s move is in everybody’s lips. Is this an unexpected low punch from Google’s side? If we take a closer look, we may find that appearances can be deceiving.

The internet keeps growing and reaching more people every year. With an estimated number of 3.4 Billion users, the network has covered 46.1% of the worlds population (source). Big players in today’s Net are rearranging their lines to confront this fierce battle that comes with delivering content to such a massive number of users. We already talked about Google’s Interconnect program, where strategic partnerships with CDN providers like Highwinds, Level 3, CloudFlare and Fastly were made to allow them to serve content stored in Google’s datacenters using the giant’s backbone network. We also talked about the very extended Google Global Cache in our last post, with more than 800 cache instances putting their popular contents and services closest to consumers.

Now Google has announced another take of their own in the world of CDNs with the Alpha Release of Google Cloud CDN. Adding to their network 70 globally distributed Edge Points of Presence, which will cache Google’s content for partnered network operators.

On the other side of the coin, we have Akamai claiming to be the world’s biggest CDN. Their own philosophy and network design is radically different from Google’s: Akamai’s backbone is the Internet itself. Akamai’s strategy is to distribute and operate isolated cache instances everywhere they can. Caches aren’t even connected between themselves in any particular way, in other words, no special “backbone”…achieving impressive results and an excellent reputation, this giant has reached a virtually ubiquitous worldwide coverage: 130000+ servers, 2200 POPs covering 1200 Networks in more than 800 locations in 81 countries.

POPs Locations Countries
Akamai 2200+ 800+ 81+
Google Global Cache ? 800+ 100+
Google CDN 70 51 33

Looking at this picture, imagining Akamai and Google clashing against each other in the battle of the clouds may seem like a likely scenario for many, but this is far from becoming reality. It is true that both are immersed in the same business, but their focus is completely different. While anyone can go directly to Akamai and get their CDN services, Google doesn’t offer the Global Cache infrastructure directly to third parties, in fact, until now Google’s focus has been facilitating the delivery of their own content, whether from their own platforms like Youtube or any other content hosted in their datacenters. Since their content is so massively popular, ISPs are naturally interested in serving them as fast as possible, so Google was able to construct a massive network of caches directly installing them within the ISPs probably at no cost, profiting from a win-win situation.

Seen under this light, we think it is unlikely that ISPs would allow Google to use their Global Cache without taking a proper share of that pie.

So all this confusion about Google and Akamai battling in the clouds seems to be a bit exaggerated. In fact, Akamai is also recently participating on the Google Interconnect Platform, which will also allow customers to save up to 66 percent on Google Cloud Platform egress costs.

“As more and more enterprises come to rely on cloud-based computing and storage resources to drive their businesses, it’s critically important that performance is maximized and cost effectiveness is maintained,”
explained Bill Wheaton, executive vice president and general manager, Media Products Division, Akamai. “As the operator of the world’s largest distributed CDN platform, we’re collaborating with Google Cloud Platform to ensure that our joint customers can pass traffic directly from Google Cloud Platform to the Akamai CDN, empowering them to take full advantage of their cloud investments.”
(source: PR Newswire)

The real battle of the clouds is being fought against Amazon and Microsoft, where Google is actually lining up with key players in the world of CDNs and not getting in their way. Trying to own everything is not necessarily the best strategy.