Dynamic content delivery has been available for a number of years and beyond just basic caching functionality, solutions in the market now focus on route, connection and content optimization. As online commerce sites have grown more complex, they rely on every feature and function of a CDN to quickly and optimally serve users. More importantly, these sites have to cater to higher user expectations across an ever-changing set of devices.
To date, Akamai has pretty much dominated the content delivery market when it comes to offering Internet retailers a PCI compliant based platform that solves the specific challenges commerce companies face. But just like with video content delivery, a market that Akamai owned for years before Limelight, Level 3, Amazon and others stepped in and pushed pricing down in the market, EdgeCast is looking to do the same thing in the commerce market. EdgeCast is now out in the industry educating customers that in many cases, there is now a credible alternative to Akamai, that one vendor no longer owns that market and that retail customers should expect better features and pricing, as another vendor has finally stepped up with an alternative in this segment.
EdgeCast new solution, launched last month, which they call “Transact”, combines the concept of a purpose-built platform for commerce with PCI Compliance, front end optimization, more efficient caching and what they say are faster SSL connections. Leveraging their existing Application Delivery Network, EdgeCast deployed an entirely new network dedicated to their commerce customers, in a more cost-effective manner, to deliver dynamic and static content globally and securely. EdgeCast also said it will match up their code freezes with the holiday online shopping season so customers can be guaranteed that EdgeCast will not make any code changes to its platform during the most critical time of the year.
To help serve and accelerate commerce sites, a CDN must have a deployment to serve a global set of users, be highly available with excellent performance and be PCI compliant. The audience for sites has continued to change and many commerce websites now offer multiple languages, different domains based on country, international shipping and local currencies. With this diverse audience, sites must maintain availability and reliability through a CDN that can serve content and information as quickly as possible. This all has to be done in a secure and compliant environment. PCI (Payment Card Industry) Compliance is not just a nice-to-have it is a necessity. Without it, customer data such as credit card information is vulnerable.
Above and beyond site acceleration there are a number of functions that commerce sites can leverage to improve performance and internal processes. Relying on a dedicated, purpose-built platform for commerce allows sites to confidently serve traffic without the burden of sharing a network with large social media sites, videos, downloads or other types of content. Additionally, code freezes to match up with holiday schedules allow sites to handle Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the rest of the shopping season without having to worry about downtime, code rollbacks or other circumstances. Newer functionality around secure connections called OCSP stapling allows for massive performance improvements for what is generally some of the most resource-intensive, yet the most important content. OCSP stapling involves improvements around the certificate revocation process and pushing that out to the edge and closer to end users results in faster performance of SSL requests. Additionally, allowing sites to make changes more quickly and efficiently with faster, near-instant purging and more reliable configuration changes permits for better management of internal processes and faster responses to user behavior.
Leveraging their existing relationship with Google’s PageSpeed technology, EdgeCast allows customers to leverage Edge Optimizer – front end optimization – at the edge in a highly scalable and flexible manner. EdgeCast was the first CDN to have FEO built-in at the edge and Edge Optimizer gives customers the ability to manage optimizations on an individual basis while still maintaining control over content. Their rules engine gives granular control over cache control settings, mobile device enablement, content protection and more. Customers can further control that content with nearly instant content purging using the new Piranha purge functionality and configuration changes generally take less than an hour to propagate.
EdgeCast has also leveraged OCSP stapling in order to make SSL connections as fast as possible. By pushing part of the SSL process to the edge, end users will now have even faster performance for the most important content – shopping carts and checkout. This functionality allows EdgeCast to serve SSL much faster using DigiCert than other certificate authorities such as Comodo or CyberTrust. EdgeCast’s new purpose-built platform for ecommerce should help change the way people look at traditional CDN providers. Focusing on commerce with PCI Compliance, faster configuration changes and content purging, more efficient technologies and what they say are better SSL connections, should allow EdgeCast to provide retailers with a premium site acceleration service and show that there is now an alternative to Akamai.
How quickly EdgeCast can make a dent in Akamai’s business I can’t say, it’s too early to know. But EdgeCast is on track to do more than $100M in total revenue this year, they have nearly 300 employees and they are getting to a size and scale where they are becoming a really big thorn in Akamai’s side. They already dominate the licensed/managed CDN market; a business Akamai is just now trying to get into and EdgeCast is one of the CDNs responsible for pushing down video CDN pricing in the market over the past two years. It’s not “doom and gloom” for Akamai, but to date, no one has really stepped up to pressure Akamai’s dominance in the Internet Retail market and clearly, that is about to change. The Commerce segment is a highly profitable core vertical for Akamai and one where they are totally dominant, so if EdgeCast can get traction in this segment, it can impact Akamai’s commerce business and is something that should be watched closely over the coming quarters.
Updated: Looking at EdgeCast’s website and other public information, some of EdgeCast’s current commerce customers include: Etsy, Bluefly, Overstock, Pacific Sunware, Wet Seal, Garmin, Vegas.com, Magneto, B&H Photo, ZipRealty.com, Burlington Coat Factory, CheaperThanDirt.com, Cooking.com, One Kings Lane and Ideeli, amongst others.