December 10, 2003 9:00 PM PST
IBM, Akamai shake on hosting deal
The two companies are expected to announce on Thursday that they are offering an add-on to IBM's WebSphere Studio programming tool that will allow developers to use a Java application on Akamai's network. By tapping into Akamai's hosted services, customers can save money and launch systems more quickly, by not having to buy servers for new WebSphere applications, the companies said.
The new service is an example of utility computing, in which companies can buy or lease services from a third party and pay only for what they use. IBM is one of the chief proponents of the trend. Other systems makers, including Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems, also are pushing utility computing initiatives.
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The new service plays into the utility trend, said Kieran Taylor, Akamai's director of product management for EdgeComputing. "This lets companies skip the capacity-planning step in the product-development life cycle," Taylor said. "Now you're able to deploy an application and pay per request. If it's popular, great. If not, you can pull the application off the network and not risk any capital outlay."
Customers pay for the service based on the number of Web requests made to the Akamai service. Pricing starts at $2,000 for 1 million requests monthly.
In May, IBM and Akamai forged a pact to offer Akamai EdgeComputing powered by WebSphere, an Akamai service that allows companies to run all, or portions of, Java business applications on Akamai's servers. A plug-in for IBM's WebSphere development tool is intended to simplify launching these applications.
The deal between IBM and Akamai was motivated in part by Big Blue's desire to generate concrete examples of its "e-business on demand" vision, said Jerry Cuomo, chief technology officer of WebSphere. With e-business on demand, IBM sells products and services, such as applications based on a utility computing model, that can help make computing resources more flexible for customers, the company said.
Taylor said he expects the number of customers who use the service will be in the "high double digits." Typically, customers run one piece of the WebSphere application. Another component that's not updated often--such as a parts catalog or a Web page delivered to people via a portal--runs on the Akamai network, he said.
The Akamai network plug-in toolkit for WebSphere Studio, as well as other tools for what IBM calls "edge computing," are available for free at IBM's AlphaWorks site, which is used to assess customer opinions and interest in new technologies from Big Blue.