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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Google and Akamai: Cult of Secrecy vs. Kingdom of Openness Via Technology Review

The king of search is tapping into what may be the largest grid of computers on the planet. And it remains extraordinarily secretive about its core technologies—perhaps because it senses a potential competitor in dotcom era flameout Akamai.“Google always reports much, much lower numbers than are true." Whenever somebody from Google puts together a new presentation, he explained, the PR department vets the talk and hacks down the numbers. Originally, he said, the slide with the numbers said that 1,000 queries/sec was the “minimum” rate, not the peak. “We have 10,000-plus servers. That’s plus a lot.”Just as Google’s search engine comes back instantly and seemingly effortlessly with a response to any query that you throw it, hiding the true difficulty of the task from users, the company also wants its competitors kept in the dark about the difficulty of the problem. After all, if Google publicized how many pages it has indexed and how many computers it has in its data centers around the world, search competitors like Yahoo!, Teoma, and Mooter would know how much capital they had to raise in order to have a hope of displacing the king at the top of the hill.Akamai, in contrast is keen that all technical details are known to the public in a very direct way -To be fair, there are important differences between Google and Akamai—differences that assure that Google won’t be breaking into Akamai’s business anytime soon, nor Akamai moving into Google’s. Both companies have developed infrastructure for running massively parallel systems, but the applications that they are running on top of those systems is different. Google’s primary application is a search engine. Akamai, by contrast, has developed a system for delivering Web pages, streaming media, and a variety of other standard Internet protocols.

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