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Akamai breaks files to speed up downloads
Posted on 31-Aug-2007 11:52 | Tags Filed under: News

Akamai Technologies, Inc. has announced the launch of its Large File Download Optimization technology, an integral feature of the Akamai Electronic Software Delivery and Media Delivery solutions that supports the optimisation and delivery of increasingly large files, such as DVD software and high-definition video content.

Akamai’s global platform has been leveraged by leading software, anti-virus, gaming, and media & entertainment companies to deliver many of the largest online files. But as file sizes continue to grow due to enhanced functionality, improved graphics, and richer media content, the company needs to provide alternatives for the distribution of large files.

The key technology behind Large File Download Optimization is a system for storing, retrieving, and delivering large files as a cluster of individual file pieces. This allows Akamai’s customers to increase file sizes in response to market demand, while in parallel leveraging the full Akamai distributed global network to provide a quicker, more seamless download experience for the end-user.

The company says file size growth is driven by many factors, including broadband penetration, larger inexpensive storage devices, and high-definition (HD) video. Many companies are now finding it feasible to deliver full DVD images (4-5 GB) over the public Internet. As HD-DVD and Blu-Ray formats become popular, it is inevitable that file sizes will grow to 50 GB or more.

Akamay explains that there are a number of challenges inherent in delivering large files.

First, the average time to download a large file can be significant and many applications may not download all data sequentially. In some cases, applications may actually download the last part of a file before the first part. Therefore, when only a small amount of a file is requested, or a user pauses a download, it can result in the download either failing or being delayed until after the entire file has been retrieved.

The second is the “fat file paradox” – why does data travelling at the speed of light often take such a long time to make it across the country? With the proliferation of large files on the Internet, users are finding that latency between user and the file ultimately dictates throughput or the speed at which users can view content.

In addition, network congestion and capacity problems further impact throughput, and these problems, coupled with the greater distance between server and end user, create additional opportunities for packet loss to occur, further reducing quality. The reduction in quality caused by limited throughput and increased packet loss may manifest itself in the delivery of a video encoded at a lower bit rate, or in a significantly increased wait time for a file download to complete.

Finally, many large files are rarely watched in their entirety. Therefore, it is helpful to many software and media delivery companies to store only the portion of a file that is requested by end users in the Akamai network. This way, only the requested portions will be efficiently distributed to the farthest reaches of the Internet.

The new technology will allow for different end user scenarios, such as caching only small portions of a large file instead of the entire file, and better download management, with users being able to schedule downloads when most appropriate, and downloading smaller parts when needed.

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