Akamai doubles down on the cloud with big expansion of Linode's capacity

The company is building more than a dozen new data centers and looking to introduce the concept of availability zones to Linode's cloud.

Office with stats on walls
Is Akamai now a major cloud player?
Photo: Akamai

Akamai is unveiling some of its postacquisition expansion plans for Linode six months after completing the $900 million deal for the IaaS cloud provider.

When it announced the acquisition in February, Akamai said it wanted to combine its delivery, distributed edge, and security services with Linode’s developer-friendly cloud capabilities and cater to more enterprises seeking an alternative to AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. First up are plans to double Linode’s global infrastructure footprint by expanding its full product suite into more than a dozen additional data centers across North America, the Asia-Pacific region, and Latin America by the end of 2023, Shawn Michels, Akamai’s vice president of product management for computing, told Protocol.

The first new site is expected to come online later this year in Ashburn, Virginia. Akamai also is targeting Amsterdam, Chennai, Chicago, Delhi, Jakarta, Los Angeles, Miami, Osaka, Paris, Rome, São Paulo, Seattle, and Stockholm.

“They are actually new [compute] build-outs, but we are looking to deploy in existing Akamai data centers where possible or at least use locations that Akamai is already familiar with,” Michels said. “We’re really looking at locations where we can find the kind of network capacity, the colo, and the power that allow us to expand horizontally like you would expect from a hyperscaler.”

Now as Akamai evaluates its data center sites for Linode, it’s selecting locations that will allow it to grow into multiple availability zones as Linode’s products and services scale. “Today, Linode does not have the notion of availability zones, so that is an evolution that we will be bringing to them as we expand the service,” Michels said.

Akamai is evaluating 50 locations to introduce “distributed sites” — which are not too dissimilar from AWS Local Zones — to bring basic compute capabilities into hard-to-reach locations underserved by the major cloud providers, such as parts of Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. While there’s a need for very large core sites that offer access to Linode’s full set of features, customers are also looking for access to a lighter-weight variant of compute in those difficult-to-reach regions, according to Michels.

“The goal is to try to push data and try to push parts of the application as close to the user as possible,” he said. “In a core site … you would have things like database as a service and object storage and block storage and VMs and containers and GPUs."

But “what we’re hearing from some of our customers is that in order to serve their audience as they build more distributed applications, and as they move into things like microservices, what they would like is VMs and a block storage offering in a more difficult-to-reach region, where maybe the networking or maybe the data center infrastructure isn’t as robust as it is in other regions,” Michels said

Also look to Akamai to aggressively roll out new enterprise cloud capabilities for Linode.

“Linode has taken an approach of really focusing on targeted IaaS-related services — so compute, networking, and storage — with a fundamental approach of being very lightweight and only doing certain layers of PaaS as needed,” Michels said.

But Akamai knows it can't turn Linode into a feature-for-feature competitor to AWS and the rest of the cloud infrastructure market overnight.

“Where we don't have the same PaaS depth as the hyperscalers, we rely on a vibrant ecosystem of third-party partners and solutions who can fill those gaps in and make it very easy for our customers to access those solutions and run them on the Linode platform,” Michels said. “Just as an example … it's highly unlikely that Akamai is going to have a proprietary AI system built on our cloud environment anytime soon. We would rather take an approach of enabling folks who are building competitive AI and ML solutions to run on our platform and simply create a relationship that would enable our customers to access those systems, rather than trying to provide a first-party, direct product.

Linode also plans investments to make its One-Click App Marketplace, where those third-party applications are offered, more robust over time, he said.


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