AT&T sees opportunity in mobility, e-commerce for CDN services

Consumers have short attention spans for online content, and AT&T hopes this will sell businesses on its AT&T CDN services, as part of a broader content monetization strategy.

Consumers have short attention spans. If there's even a minor delay loading an online video or placing an item in an e-tailer's shopping cart, they won't hesitate to move on. Network operators are hoping that this behavior will make enterprises anxious to buy their content delivery network (CDN) services, as part of a broader push toward next-generation content monetization strategies. 

AT&T is elbowing its way into the market with its recently announced cloud-based AT&T Content Delivery Network service, which is due out for general availability in the third quarter of 2011. Joe Lueckenhoff, senior vice president of business product management at AT&T, spoke with about how AT&T intends to differentiate and compete in a market that's long been dominated by pure-play CDN providers and often perceived as relevant only to video content providers and dotcoms.

How does AT&T plan to compete against more established CDN service providers, such as Akamai?

AT&T's built the CDN [service] into our network fabric.

Joe Lueckenhoff
Senior Vice President of Business Product Management, AT&T

Lueckenhoff: While the CDN service stands on its own very well, we think it's important [to note] that ... it's part of our cloud offering. Not only can we provide AT&T CDN services, we can also provide those same customers VPN services or other cloud-based services, like our AT&T Virtual Private Cloud.

AT&T's built the CDN [service] into our network fabric. It's protected with the security at every layer of our network, and it's supported on our global IP network. AT&T's global IP network operates at 99.99% availability. We currently handle about 23.7 petabytes of data traffic on an average day. So, the ability to provide CDN [services] on top of that network infrastructure that we already have is a natural ... play for our existing customers who use AT&T's other data services. That's why we think the benefit for our customers is really tied to our network. This is ... one more piece of the portfolio that fleshes everything out for [business] customers.

CDN services are often associated with large media companies and video content providers. How does AT&T plan to appeal to a broader range of customers?

Lueckenhoff: [CDN services are] not just for video.... While the media vertical is a very large and important customer in this space, we see other [opportunities] as well.

It's very important to recognize that the Internet is not just people looking at computers ... but it's also people interacting with websites on their mobile devices. More and more people are downloading applications or looking at videos on mobile devices, and frankly our [business] customers who want to connect with their end customers ... are becoming more interested in ensuring that that works on mobile devices, such as smartphones. is a [customer of ours] that provides weather information to [consumers]. Mobile devices [accessing its site] have gone from about 50 million inquiries per day to about 650 million inquiries per day ... in just one year. The way it works is they know where you are because of the GPS information on your device, and ... prior to the use of AT&T's CDN service, each individual query went all the way back to their server and responded with information relevant to that user.

With the use of AT&T's CDN services, what we were able to do for AccuWeather was [intercept] a set of users so that not all of them would go back to the [central] server. For instance, if you had 50 people all within a specific geography asking for weather [forecasts] ... you'd get one inquiry going back to the server and [the CDN] would answer that question for all 50 people in that [same] location. The benefit from AccuWeather's point of view is the response is much, much quicker. On average, if you use AT&T's CDN services, the response is anywhere from 40% to 60% quicker. And what we've seen is the quicker the response, the more likely the customers are to continue the interaction, which is where AccuWeather makes their money.

The other [use case] that's important is ... using dynamic information. A good example of dynamic information is when you're updating credit card information in [an online] shopping cart. Each customer—each eyeball—will have different credit card information, but 90% of that information on that shopping page is relevant to hundreds or perhaps thousands of customers.

What data within the analytics and reporting capabilities in AT&T's CDN services are going to be valuable to business customers?

Lueckenhoff: Latency is probably the most critical [measurement] for our customers.

A customer [of ours] wants to know... once their customer asks for a red sweater, how quickly was the red sweater presented to them? How long did it take for them to refresh the page? The fact that it was done in less than, say, six seconds makes them 80% more likely to buy than if [the transaction] took more than six seconds. So, [retailers] want to know how many times [those transactions were] done in less than six seconds.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, News Writer.

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