Infrastucture : The Internet is still growing

Despite all of the anxieties about the world economy, some indicators are strongly postive. Akamai operates at least 61,000 servers, very widely distributed, supporting billions of http requests. They publish a 'State of the Internet' quarterly review, with the most recent summarizing information up to the end of 2009. From the viewpoint of their servers, they observed a 4.7% increase (compared to the third quarter of 2009) globally in the number of unique IP addresses connecting to Akamai’s network. Ending 2009 at 465 million unique IPs, the metric grew 16% from the end of 2008, and nearly 54% from the end of 2007. They also report on the changes in the bandwidth of the connections being made to their servers - global connections at rates abouve 5 Mbps increased at 12% in Q4 2009 compared to Q3 2009; connections at less than 256K bps increased 41% over the same time period.

This big increase in comparatively slow speed connections is attributed to growth in mobile connections. This week, Akamai announced the aquistion of Velocitude, which builds a platform for converting content originally intended for viewing on PC screens to content suitable for smaller, lower bandwith mobile screens. Akamai has made only 4 aquisitions in the last 5 years - it has a reputation as a having a very strong 'Not Invented Here' culture. However, according to the press release, Velocitude is being aquired for its technology.

Mary Meeker's Internet Trends report, also out this week, estimates that smartphone shipments will exceed PC shipments worldwide in 2012. Also, it reports that users' expectations of their devices are changing to expect always on access, very fast boot times, low latency access to almost all information, day long battery life and elegant design. Users do not want to have to care whether the CPU, memory and storage they are using are on the device in their hand, or remote in the cloud.

The Akamai numbers predate the iPad launch - it will be interesting to compare the numbers for the first and second quarters of 2010 to the numbers from the end of 2009.

Updated to add : Geoff Huston has instructive opinions on Internet growth in 2009, from the perspective of IP address allocation - he sees the same indicators of growth in mobile service.


Akamai 'State of the Internet Q4 2009 pdf
Akamai aquires Velocitude press release
Mary Meeker, Morgan Stanley InternetTrends
Geoff Huston Addressing 2009