Akamai was one of these companies that I knew about but didn’t really think much about. I work with VMware, Citrix and Microsoft technologies. I help deliver solutions revolving around applications, virtualization and data and NOT web servers or websites. My understanding of Akamai was that they speed up the web by preloading and caching websites to the edges of the internet (closest possible points to the users requesting them). While cool and useful to me as a web consumer, it did little for my professional life.
All that changed after meeting with them and getting a more in-depth technical overview of what they do for applications other than static websites. Specifically their IPA product offering. (IP Application Accelerator)
The pitch behind the product that intrigued me the most was the ability to speed both ICA and RDP connections working over SSL VPNs. This could have big implications on a Citrix XenApp, XenDesktop or VMware View solution. The claim is that they can ‘speed’ the connection up between hosts and clients using a variety of techniques to dramatically reduce and stabilize the connection regardless of distance from source. The farther the client from the source geographically, the easier it is to see and realize the benefits of this solution.
So my obvious question was How can they do this for dynamic user sessions where just keyboard, mouse and screen data is being sent?
The easiest one for me to understand was the Sure Route technology. Basically, through their worldwide distributed infrastructure, they make sure your packets are getting from point A to point B in the quickest, most efficient way. This is contrary to the public internet that would normally take your traffic over the most COST EFFECTIVE path for the backbone operators. Akamai also uses their global servers to ‘weather map’ the internet to find the quickest path and detect issues and congestion earlier than others.
The next two methods relate to the actual TCP transmission of your traffic. Not being a network guy, I understood that they do enhancements to maximize the transmission rates. Pushing packets aggressively down the line at full speed proprietary techniques instead of the more common ramping methods that TCP normally defaults to. Packet loss is the next big thing that can slow down a session. Akamai aggressively pushes multiple copies of the packets down the wire to combat packet loss and retransmissions effectively speeding the user experience.
Clearly none of these techniques involve caching or preloading information which while useful for websites, do almost NOTHING for VDI sessions. Based on the marketing chart below, for VDI solutions with users spread across the globe, I can see this being a winner assuming the costs make sense.
The last piece that I thought was cool was the ability to try the service out. Since it is all going on within the interwebs, typically only a new cname record is required. No customer infrastructure needed. This should make trying out and benchmarking results pretty easy.