Yottaa, 4th-gen CDNs, and acceleration for the masses

I’d meant to blog about Yottaa when it launched back in October, because it’s one of the most interesting entrants to the CDN market that I’ve seen in a while.

Yottaa is a fourth-generation CDN that offers site analytics, edge caching, a little bit of network optimization, and front-end optimization.

While CDNs of earlier generations have heavily capital-intensive models that require owning substantial server assets, fourth-generation CDNs have a software-oriented model and own limited if any delivery assets themselves. (See a previous post for more on 4th-gen CDNs.)

In Yottaa’s case, it uses a large number of cloud IaaS providers around the world in order to get a global server footprint. Since these resources can be obtained on-demand, Yottaa can dynamically match its capacity to customer demand, rather than pouring capital into building out a server network. (This is a critical new market capability in general, because it means that as the global footprint of cloud IaaS grows, there can be far more competition in the innovative portion of the CDN market — it’s far less expensive to start a software company than a company trying to build out a competitive CDN footprint.)

There are three main things that you can do to speed up the delivery of a website (or Web-based app): you can do edge caching (classic static content CDN delivery), you can do network optimization (the kind of thing that F5 has in its Web App Accelerator add-on to its ADC, or, as a service, something like Akamai DSA), or you can do front-end optimization, sometimes known as Web content optimization or Web performance optimization (the kind of thing that Riverbed’s Aptimize does). Gartner clients only: See my research note “How to Accelerate Internet Websites and Applications” for more on acceleration techniques.

Yottaa does all three of these things, although its network optimizations are much more minimal than a typical DSA service. It does it in an easy-to-configure way that’s readily consumable by your average webmaster. And the entry price-point is $20/month. Sign up for an instant free trial, online — here’s the consumerization of CDN services for you.

When I took a look at calculating the prices at volume using the estimates that Yottaa gave me, I realized that it’s nowhere near as cheap as it might first look — it’s comparable to Akamai DSA pricing. But it’s the kind of thing that pretty much anyone could add to their site if they cared about performance. It brings acceleration to the mass market.

Sure, your typical Akamai customer is probably not going to be consuming this service just yet. But give it some time. This is the new face of competition in the CDN market — companies that are focused entirely on software development (possibly using low-cost labor: Yottaa’s engineering is in Beijing), relying on somebody else’s cloud infrastructure rather than burning capital building a network.

Three years ago, I asked in my blog: Are CDNs software or infrastructure companies? The new entrants, which also include folks like CloudFlare, come down firmly on the software side.

Recently, one of my Gartner Invest clients — a buy-side analyst who specializes in infrastructure software companies — pointed out to me that Akamai’s R&D spending is proportionately small compared to the other companies in that sector, while it is spending huge amounts of capex in building out more network capacity. I would previously have put Akamai firmly on the software side of the CDN as software or infrastructure question. It’s interesting to think about the extent to which this might or might not be the case going forward.

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Posted on November 13, 2011, in Infrastructure and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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