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Photo: Akamai

Is Akamai now a major cloud player?

Protocol Enterprise

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: Akamai CEO Tom Leighton explains why he bought Linode and doubled down on security, TSMC thinks twice about Europe, and scenes from the RSA conference in San Francisco.

Akamai wants to make it the Big Four

Akamai Technologies’ recent $900 million acquisition of Linode was the “last big piece” to backstop its cloud-to-edge strategy.

The 24-year-old company has evolved from its origins as a content delivery network and internet backbone to what CEO Tom Leighton called the “world’s most distributed cloud services provider” with compute, security and delivery in a conversation last week with Protocol.

  • Akamai completed its purchase of Linode in March, gaining core cloud computing capabilities with an infrastructure-as-a-service provider that bills itself as an alternative to AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.
  • The deal followed its $600 million acquisition of network security company Guardicore in October, which added micro-segmentation technology to block the spread of malware to Akamai’s zero-trust security portfolio for enterprises.
  • “Now our customers can build their apps on Akamai, they can run them on Akamai, they can secure them with us and they can deliver, of course, through Akamai,” Leighton said.
  • “And Q1 was a significant milestone in our journey, because it was the first quarter where delivery — where we started — was no longer the majority of our revenue.”

“Next year, security will be the largest of the three,” Leighton said.

  • “It won’t be the majority yet by itself, but it’ll be bigger than delivery and compute,” he said.
  • Stil, over time, Leighton believes that compute — where Akamai competes directly with the Big Three cloud providers — could be an enormous business for the company.
  • “It'll be a tough fight with security for that crown, because those are both very fast-growing areas for Akamai,” he said.

Leighton has been with Akamai from the start. He co-founded the company in 1998 and was its chief scientist before becoming CEO in 2013.

  • “Early on, we provided security solutions for the government, but the industry wasn't ready yet for it — didn't fully appreciate it,” Leighton said. “And it wasn't really until 2012 that companies started to appreciate [that] they needed Akamai to protect them, that they just couldn't do it themselves anymore.”
  • Leighton also considers Akamai to have been well ahead of the edge computing game, which is starting to gain traction as companies look for computing resources that can run closer to their end users.
  • “[Back then] we did elementary things that our customers could use, but in terms of full-blown applications at the edge, it was too early. Now, fast forward, we have thousands of customers using our edge computing capabilities today.”

Read the full in-depth interview with Tom Leighton here.

— Donna Goodison (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM VERSAPAY

Fewer than half of executives (44%) see better communication with customers as a benefit of digitizing AR. Meanwhile, 72% state that their AR department isn't customer-oriented enough, implying that executives understand the need for customer-oriented AR departments, but aren't aware that they can close that gap as part of their AR digitization project.

Learn more

TSMC: No ‘concrete plans’ for a chip factory in Europe

Europe’s effort to attract fresh advanced chip manufacturing appears to have stumbled.

TSMC has been assessing whether to construct a new facility somewhere in the bloc for months, but said Wednesday it doesn’t have “concrete plans.” By way of reasoning, TSMC’s chairman Mark Liu said at the company’s annual shareholder meeting that the contract chip giant has relatively few customers in Europe, according to Reuters.

Building a new chip factory is an endeavor measured in the tens of billions of dollars, but chipmakers need more than equipment and factory walls to succeed. Chip factories thrive in places such as Taiwan because there is a pool of talent to draw on and dozens of other businesses that support chip manufacturing in existence already.

Right now, Europe lacks the level of that critical human and economic infrastructure, which makes building a new factory there a potentially risky bet. Intel has accepted that risk, and has committed 17 billion euros to build new manufacturing operations there — though the German site will be heavily subsidized.

TSMC’s plans for Europe aside, the Taiwanese government — which was instrumental in the creation of TSMC — has become interested in tech made in Europe. It has announced a commitment of $1.2 billion of tech investments in Lithuania, among other plans.

— Max A. Cherney (email | twitter)

Heard at RSA

I’ve been out in San Francisco this week to witness the return of the in-person RSA Conference. And in speaking with a number of people in the cybersecurity industry and catching a few talks, a few themes have come up again and again.

Boring is cool: At RSA this year, there’s “a vein of back to the basics,” Joshua Motta, co-founder and CEO at cyber insurance firm Coalition, told me. Along with a track dedicated to the “human element” in security and an emphasis on basic cyber hygiene during multiple keynotes, “I've been kind of surprised to see how much people are focused on email security and [foundational] things like that,” Motta said. He thinks this might be in part because, as the number of choices of security tools has surged, CISOs are increasingly looking to the data to validate where they should really invest. “And it turns out that the basics are aligned with where the actual risk is for many organizations,” Motta said.

Acronyms suck: The security industry is infamous for its acronym overload, but some of them might actually be counter-productive, too. SBOMs (software bill of materials) actually “sounds terrifying,” Caroline Wong, chief strategy officer at cybersecurity firm Cobalt, told me. (“Software ingredient list” would be better, she said.) As for the term MFA (multifactor authentication), people’s “eyes glaze over” when they hear it, CISA director Jen Easterly suggested during a panel. Her proposal: Ditch the acronym and start referring to the concept simply as “more than a password.”

Definitions matter: Unsurprisingly for many at the show, two of the biggest RSA buzzwords have been extended detection and response (XDR) and zero trust. What’s more surprising is how many different definitions I’ve heard for each of the terms.

The RSA effect: For many whom I’ve spoken with, the most prominent theme of this year’s conference was essentially, “Wow, we’re having a conference.” But the chance to interact with other humans face to face and the opportunity for serendipitous things to happen is sure to bear fruit. As a direct result of getting so many security professionals together like this, “in about three months from now, you're going to see a whole bunch of new ideas come out in more refined form,” Lacework cloud strategist Mark Nunnikhoven told me.

— Kyle Alspach (email | twitter)

Around the enterprise

Salesforce launched NFT Cloud, a moment historians will one day regard as a canonical example of legacy enterprise tech bandwagoning on the Web3 craze with only the slimmest of plans.

The trial of a former AWS employee accused of hacking into Capital One’s data in 2019 kicked off on Tuesday, with the defense raising the possibility that Paige Thompson will attempt to argue she was a white-hat hacker.

Google Cloud launched a new computing region in Dallas, its 11th in the U.S. and first deep in the heart of Texas.

Cloudflare, Apple and Google launched Private Access Tokens, a bid to replace those annoying CAPTCHAs with a new method for site owners to verify that humans — not bots orchestrating a distributed denial of service attack — are trying to visit their sites.

A MESSAGE FROM VERSAPAY

A resounding 96% of respondents claimed that there is work to do in digitizing their AR departments, yet 60% agreed that their AR departments haven’t been prioritized as much as other departments for digitization. At a time when the importance of securing cash flow is higher than ever, many businesses are not putting enough focus on it.

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Thanks for reading — see you tomorrow!

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