Akamai has high hopes for its new Gecko Edge cloud service, but can it target competition with hyperscalers?

Akamai CEO Tom Leighton on FullSTK stage during day two of Collision 2023 at Enercare Centre in Toronto, Canada
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Akamai recently announced the launch of its Gecko ‘Generalized Edge Compute’ project, which will expand the company's edge computing network by 85 regions over the course of 2024.

The cloud firm said the launch of the new service will cement it as a major player in the cloud computing space, and will see 10 new regions added in the first quarter of 2024 alone, followed by a further 75 over the rest of the year. 

The US-headquartered firm is building on its existing edge computing infrastructure, which includes numerous content delivery networks (CDN) across the globe.

Following its acquisition of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) provider Lenode in 2022, Akamai has been using these CDNs to bolster its position as a cloud provider.

Rene Buest, senior director analyst at Gartner, told ITPro the move is an ambitious one that aims to rapidly expand its services and offer customers a more varied product portfolio.

“What Akami is doing strategically well is to extend their current portfolio,” Buest told ITPro

“They finally connect the two different offerings they have, their CDN and their edge, with the cloud environment they have acquired through Linode,” he added. 

Why edge computing is so important in the current cloud climate 

Edge computing has grown in popularity at enterprises globally in recent years following a rapid shift to the cloud, with organizations seeking to maximize value, efficiency, and crucially, speed. 

Essentially, edge computing denotes data processing systems that are located closer to an end user, or at the edge of the cloud network. 

“Typically when we speak about cloud, we are actually quite far away from where the actual user, or the customer of a cloud solution, sits,” Buest said. 

The decentralized nature of cloud computing, whereby data centers sit great distances away from customers, is an issue that can create problems in terms of speed and latency, Buest said. For cloud providers, then, the ideal scenario involves being able to process data closer to the actual customers. 

That’s where edge computing comes in, acting as a mid point between large data centers and end user digital touchpoints.

“The edge provides more proximity between the user and the cloud service,” said Buest. “It’s about [bringing] compute power, data, everything, [much] closer to [where the action actually happens].”

For cloud providers, edge computing is becoming an increasingly important aspect of their offerings, enabling them to ensure services are hitting the ground running for end users and maximizing efficiency. 

Akamai is “catching up” to the hyperscalers

Akamai is certainly making moves in edge computing, but it’s not like the hyperscalers are resting on their laurels either, according to Buest. 

“All the big providers already have solutions for edge,” he said. “Of course, they don't do everything themselves, so they are partnering with telecommunication providers.”

Microsoft has a range of offerings, including Azure IoT edge, Azure Stack Edge, and Azure Data Box, to name but a few, while Google offers several distributed edge-focused solutions.  

Amazon also offers its AWS for the Edge platform, as well a partnership with Verizon that delivers mobile edge computing

Akamai has an increasing amount of skin in the game, though, and could be said to be “catching up” with the hyperscalers, Buest noted.

“The advantage that Akamai has is, [because of their legacy,] they have a large presence around the world,” he said.

“They have a very, very well connected network across the world,” he added. “This is their core business, these CDNs. They certainly have, at least from a connectivity standpoint, an advantage [over] the hyperscalers.”

Buest was careful to point out, however, that in many ways, hyperscalers can offer end users more with regard to edge capabilities than Akamai can at this stage.

He made reference to AWS outpost, a product which allows end users access to on-premises edge solutions.

So, while Akamai has an impressive level of connectivity, it doesn’t necessarily have the end user capabilities needed for a competitive advantage in the cloud service industry as a whole. 

There is perhaps also limited marketability to Akamai’s offering, which relies on a fundamentally niche unique selling point in terms of network size.

“Do customers really need that? That’s the biggest question here,” Buest said. “Do I really need compute power in Alaska?”

He accepted that, of course, in some instances a far reaching network is an advantage, such as for research and development teams. On the whole, though, it might not capture a sizable market.

 “So it's not me-too offering but it's also not something that I would say gives them a competitive edge against the hyperscalers,” he said.

Buest suggested looking not to cloud data centers or to their edge mediums, but rather at the end points, the digital touchpoints in which customers interact with the cloud.

That way, businesses can truly decide what’s the most important thing for their customers and, in turn, what they need to focus on in their cloud environment.

“You have this connectivity, you have these points of presence, the CDNs, the compute power, the storage. What will you do on top of that? And that's a question that the hyperscalers are able to answer these days,” he said. 

George Fitzmaurice
Staff Writer

George Fitzmaurice is a staff writer at ITPro, ChannelPro, and CloudPro, with a particular interest in AI regulation, data legislation, and market development. After graduating from the University of Oxford with a degree in English Language and Literature, he undertook an internship at the New Statesman before starting at ITPro. Outside of the office, George is both an aspiring musician and an avid reader.