Tag Archives: Content Delivery Network

10 years since joining

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This time ten years ago I joined IMG as the Development Manager to build a new Content Management System.

The digital division within IMG was about four years old at that point, and had bought the digital rights to a number of sports organisations with the hope that the advertising and sponsorship on those sites would cover the costs of writing huge cheques to the sports organisations. ‘Hope’ is a strong word, because at the time the Internet bubble was at it’s height, and we all thought we’d be billionaires by Christmas.

When I joined, IMG was pulling out of a number of these deals, and looking for efficiencies with the tiny development teams.

The Internet was so different back then. Products were very expensive. Vendors and ‘experts’ were all learning as they were going along – so when we got stuck, we were well and truly on our own. For instance we tried different CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) to handle the huge amount of traffic we were experiencing, and ended up creating our own using Cacheflow servers. Just looking up the link just now made me laugh – because these boxes used to be the size of a fridge, and now they’re the size of a PC. Once we’d got the Cacheflows stable, we simply migrated to Akamai.

I remember people, including the CTO, would sleep in the office when we expected incidents to happen. I remember arguments with database vendors about licensing – some wanted to charge for every visitor that accessed the website, because they saw that as a database user. I remember running analytics reports on websites that used to take several days to compile, and when we wanted to run the report again with a different metric, all the numbers in the report would change! That same report in SiteCatalyst now takes a second to run and end users run it themselves.

Most of the really difficult stuff back in 2001 is now a commodity. Half of those products now have a freeware solution.

In around 2005/6 I moved to the client side – project management and operations. The CMS was very stable, and it was time to look at a decent off-the-shelf solution because we were losing pitches because of our lack of multi-lingual support, versioning, WYSIWYG editing and advanced SEO support.

We chose Sitecore as the CMS platform, and for the first time we looked at offshoring to India to migrate our sites. Three months of total pain followed. For the first time since joining IMG, we missed deadlines (in sport, although it sounds obvious you can’t miss deadlines – most of the time you might as well not deliver anything than deliver a project late). We pulled the projects back to the UK and an army of contractors joined the development team. Some were good, some weren’t. We started to offshore to Eastern Europe instead. And it was a revelation:

  • Being able to fly there and back in a day (not recommended, although possible and sometime necessary);
  • The cultural similarities; 
  • The push-back nature from developers on some of the requirements.

Then in late 2008 we looked to outsource more work to Romania via Endava. What started off at a simple outsourcing deal changed at the last moment, and the staff TUPEd over to Endava in January 2009.

Since then we’ve worked on some new projects outside of sport, and the Web has become a stable, maturing, controllable entity. In 2001 we were looking only to stabilise our clients’ sites.

Our traffic (bandwidth, visitors and page impressions) have all increased exponentially in ten years, with some exponentially, several times. Social Networks have come and some of them have gone. Do they compete? No, they simply direct more and more traffic to our clients’ sites.

And now to the future. In 2011 we are looking at providing data insights, personalised experiences, full integration with back off systems, and providing a true ROI for our client’s digital properties.

Review of my 2010 predictions

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Back in January I made 10 predictions for Digital Media for 2010. Being open and transparent, how did these predictions fair over the year?

  1. Reinvestment in Digital Media.
    2010 was a great year for agencies. We have implemented a number of very large websites, both brand new brands and existing ones. In terms of reinvestment, clients are now looking into cloud computing and full disaster recovery.
    Prediction rating: 10/10
  2. Lack of new products due to R&D being slashed in 2009.
    Looking back at new applications and products – what was released that made a big impact? The iPad (at the beginning of the year before being launched it was referred to as the iSlate). I predicted that the end of the year would see some launches, and Kinect was released in November. Before you start commenting that 2010 was the year of 3D TV, they were in fact launched in 2009.
    Prediction rating: 10/10 

  3. A number of live events on YouTube.
    Well, in September they launched live streaming. However I doubt most people really noticed. I’ll knock some points off because I said “live is where the value is”.
    Prediction rating: 8/10

  4. More Flex applications, less Silverlight.
    Hmmm – more site are using Flex (BBC iPlayer download for example). HTML 5 changed the landscape significantly, and due to the ongoing spat between Apple and Adobe, agencies are nervous about any single vendor, and will move to the latest version of HTML instead.
    Prediction rating: 3/10 

  5. SecondLife to further decline.
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    Second-what? The LindenX has just flattened out for the last couple of years – which means no more money is coming into the platform.
    Prediction rating: 9/10

  6. The UK to start accepting blogging at the same status as the US.
    Absolutely. UK news programmes now interview blogging experts for their views and opinions. Blogs are quoted in the press (errr, but so is Twitter, so maybe it’s just reporters’ laziness).
    Prediction rating: 10/10

  7. Offline browsers make a comeback.
    Perhaps 12 months ahead of it’s time, this prediction didn’t materialise. Before you think there is a gap in the market, we have been approached by a number of vendors in this space.
    Prediction rating: 2/10

  8. The FIFA World Cup sees huge use of video over mobile & broadband.
    It’s easy to forget the World Cup this year. If you were streaming it though, your view of the summer was probably very different to England supporters. Internet traffic reached a record peak (of almost 1Tb/sec) due to video over mobile and broadband. 
    Prediction rating: 10/10

  9. Expect ebooks to take off.
    Ebooks have exceeded all expectations for booksellers, so I was correct there. However magazines, sports programmes and other paper publications have been slow to move to ebooks, mainly because Amazon and other ebook retailers want such a high slice of the revenue. So if you’re a football club that sells a programme for £3 or £4, you really don’t want a new middleman taking 20-30% of your revenue to sell the book electronically.
    Prediction rating: 5/10

  10. 2010… the year of Web CRM
    There is still a major opportunity for a cloud based platform with efficient pricing. I do not understand why there isn’t a white label SSO platform out there. Let me know if you can recommend one.
    Prediction rating: 0/10

Pretty good going overall. Any more accurate and I’d be an octopus.

I’ll post an article on 2011 predictions next week.

Photo courtesy of Shine 2010 – 2010 World Cup good news.

Akamai Digital Media event

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Yesterday I went to the a Digital Media event hosted by Akamai. Here are a number of key points from the session:

  1. Only 1% of video is currently delivered over IP (i.e. the Internet). This will keep growing as more TVs are Internet enabled. This probably accounts for why Akamai and the other CDNs share prices are doing so well, outperforming the indices and competitors (see chart above).
    1. Video IP usage is up more than a third from 2009
    2. and we’re watching video almost 50% longer.
  2. The UK is well advanced of the US in terms of peer to peer – most of the UK’s broadcasters use it, whereas in the US it is only used for illegal file sharing.
  3. 60% of Europe’s iPhone market is in the UK. This explains why our sites have low iPhone usage globally. (It’s worth noting that the time spent on apps makes up for the low iPhone usage).
  4.  Akamai are bringing out some interesting new services on their Edge network. Other organisations who own huge numbers of web servers such as Amazon and Microsoft are virtualising their environment and renting it out as well known Operating Systems (e.g. AWS and Azure both can both run as Windows servers, sold by the hour). Akamai are working differently by expanding Value Added Services to their customers – keeping the technology proprietary.

All in all it was a good day, hearing about a number of new technologies and an excellent case study from Adam Lynch at The R&A.

 

The Internet equivalent to keying a car

Well, clearly I’ve been upsetting a few people recently, because since yesterday this blog has been a victim of a DOS (Denial of Service) attack!

A DOS is the Internet equivalent to keying a car – pure hate, no ‘reward’ for the criminal, and just sucks up the victim’s time and resources for several days.

To help prevent DOS attacks, websites can use technologies such as CDN (Content Delivery Networks), such as Akamai. So if you go to a site such as FIFAManchester United or The R&A, you’re actually going to a server hosted by Akamai. And Akamai have literally hundreds of thousands of servers around the World, so they can handle the DOS attack. This is one of the reasons why their share price is doing so well.

With Akamai, the website pays for the data traffic, so during a DOS attack, huge amounts of data are served. So Akamai answer this by offering a ‘DOS insurance’ policy to mitigate the data costs during a DOS.

The whole 9 years

On May 31 2001, I joined IMG Digital. Actually, I joined TWI Interactive, but either way, that makes it 9 years and a day since I started my current role. The role has also changed quite a bit since Head of Application Development. In fact, pretty much everything has changed!

TWI Interactive was reorganised a number of times before stabilising itself as IMG Digital, which was then outsourced to Endava in January 2009.

Gone are the proprietary content management systems, and in their place are the off the shelf ones.

It’s almost amusing to think that back in 2001 we were trying to rollout our own content delivery network (now we mainly use Akamai and some customers have corporate accounts with Limelight). It’s also amusing to think that the content delivery network we were building was to support 28k video streams!

Traffic has risen 100 times. I remember when our sites broke through the million unique visitors level (and let’s face it, web logs weren’t exactly the most accurate measurements).

I could go on, but frankly most of you would find it boring!

Whilst we’ve done so much in 9 years (working with some amazing people, helping Microsoft with the launch of Vista, mobile messaging and application development, huge traffic), the next year will undoubtedly be the most interesting. We have a number of huge launches over the coming 12 months, from some of the biggest brand names out there.

Here’s to another 9 years – although it’s scary to think about my kids ages at that time!

Akamai’s State of the Internet

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A couple of weeks ago Akamai published a quarterly update to their ‘State of the Internet‘ report.

For those of you unfamiliar with Akamai, they have a network of servers that serve most of the content that you consume on the Internet – for instance the BBC doesn’t have thousands of servers providing the BBC website and iPlayer – they outsource the delivery of the web pages and video to Akamai. By ‘outsourcing’ the delivery, website speed increases significantly and the website can become less vulnerable to security attempts.

The report usually has an unhealthy technical bias towards the Internet. Yes, we may all need want to know how many more people came online in a quarter, but month after month it can become a little dull.

This quarter’s report has a number of gems tucked away beneath the surface:

  1. Akamai is now serving so many mobile phones, that from the next quarter they will start separating the mobile data reports from the fixed line data. This is a significant move in the industry – a real recognition that the mobile era has fully come of age.
  2. Global mobile network speeds range from 100Kbps to 3.2Mbps. 10 years ago geeks were at home unpacking our their 56k modems! Now, as a global range, the minimum speed of handsets browsing the web is twice that speed. There are homes in the UK that are unable to access more than 1Mb connections – with mobile networks delivering 3 times that speed.
  3. The countries with the highest number of IP addresses per capita (basically, everything connected to the Internet needs an IP address) are Norway, Finland and Sweden with 0.49, 0.44 and 0.43 respectively. All of the top 6 countries have a ratio of 0.4 or higher. That’s 4 IP addresses per every person in the country. The¬†Scandinavian¬†countries are higher undoubtedly through their mobile handsets – many of these countries have more than one mobile handset per person.¬†
  4. In terms of Global Connection Speeds, the highest European country is Romania (which comes fourth globally, behind South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan), with an average connection of 7.2Mbps. To put this into perspective, the US has an average connection speed of 3.8Mbps. (Shameless plug: this is ideal for our near shore development and managed services teams in Romania!).

If you have a spare 30 minutes on the tube over the next week, I’d recommend you download it here (you need to supply and then validate your email address first).