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This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala's blog.

Akamai is holding its Edge user conference this week in our nation’s capital. There may not be much going on in Washington these days, other than arguing over whether the Washington Redskins should change their name or not, but there appears to be a lot going on between Akamai and Cisco.

At the event, Akamai announced that it would be integrating its Unified Performance technology into Cisco’s ISR-AX branch routers to optimize WAN performance and hybrid cloud performance. The partnership extends Cisco’s Intelligent WAN or IWAN, solutions designed to deliver a wide area network that is cost-effective but still optimizes the performance of web- and business-critical applications.

Cisco’s IWAN offerings currently consist of WAN optimization, Application Visibility and Control (AVC), security and other optimization techniques. This partnership extends the Akamai caching and content delivery capabilities to the branch by effectively making every Cisco ISR-AX a mini Akamai point of presence.

The theory behind the joint solution is that Akamai would do what it does best, and that’s optimizing traffic across the internet. Cisco would then optimize the traffic from the Akamai network to the enterprise customer and across the WAN providing an end-to-end optimized network. Typically, customers could control the traffic on their own WAN through the use of quality of service (QoS) or one of the above-mentioned optimization protocols, but architecting a solution that can optimize out the internet was difficult, if not impossible, for most IT departments.

Historically, there really hasn’t been much need for an offering like this, as almost all applications and customer data resided in a corporate data center or branch office, and all traffic traversed the company WAN. That’s not true today, though. Cloud, particularly hybrid cloud environments, by definition, dictates that customer data and traffic could be hopping on and off the company network and using the internet to connect the cloud service. The Akamai/Cisco partnership gives customers more control over this type of hybrid architecture.

This partnership could be significant for Akamai, as the company has been striving to become more relevant to mainstream enterprises for some time and has had limited success. The ability to tap into the monopoly-like share Cisco has in branch routing is a tremendous opportunity for Akamai. Even moderate success would mean a huge market opportunity for Akamai to advance its hybrid cloud solutions.

For Cisco, it’s hard to imagine that this partnership will have much impact on branch market share since it already dominates that market. However, getting customers to upgrade from the ISR-G2 to ISR-AX is important to maintaining the share the customer enjoys. Cisco should position the AX version of ISR as the first branch router designed for hybrid cloud environments. Cisco has already loaded the AX up with a ton of optimization features, and this certainly extends the IWAN vision.

As far as I know, no details were given on pricing or how the two companies would go to market, but this partnership should benefit customers of both Akamai and Cisco.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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