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New DevOps Akamai products aim to court software developers

Akamai is practically a household name on the operations side, but now the company is going after the developer space with new DevOps-friendly products.

Just six months after acquiring applications performance monitoring company SOASTA, Akamai has released a number...

of new offerings, including a new version of SOASTA's mPulse, marking perhaps the first time the content delivery network provider has directly marketed itself to developers.

And the process of getting to the new Akamai products has been an eye-opener. "We've been looking at ourselves in a mirror and thought we had our eyes open, but we've been kidding ourselves," admitted Ari Weil, strategic product and marketing leader of Akamai. "We've heard 'we don't care about you guys, you're not in our consciousness,'" he said.

Standing out in a crowd

In the DevOps world, Akamai is a well-known name on the operations side of things. But despite DevOps bringing the two sides closer together, at the end of the day developers, under pressure to create better applications more quickly, are understandably focused on the tools that can help them get work done faster. The existing Akamai products weren't really "developer-friendly" and even before being acquired, SOASTA found itself having to occasionally sell the value proposition of its mPulse APM tool.

"They (Akamai) still have some work to do when it comes to building developer awareness," said Jeffrey Hammond, vice president and principal analyst serving application development and delivery professionals at Forrester Research. "Most developers tend to know who Akamai is conceptually but not necessarily why they need to care, and what Akamai's technology can do to improve their development efforts."

But Weil is determined to change all of that. The latest Akamai products are very DevOps-oriented and are designed to make it simple for developers to work with Akamai offerings directly. Now developers can tie in to a variety of public clouds, work with a selection of public APIs and fine-tune performance monitoring to get just the information they need. Akamai has also opened its tools up to working with Varnish, a popular open source http cache system. 

Rethinking the business

But to get to this point with the new Akamai products, Weil and his team had to have lots of conversations with developers to try to understand their perspective. "Developers don't want to learn how to work with you. They want you to learn how to work with them in the lowest friction way possible," he explained. And that took some intense rethinking of the business, perhaps no more so when it came to public APIs. "We thought we really knew what we were doing, but we realized we weren't thinking about what the developers really needed when it came to APIs. This was a material shift for us and how we do business." The company was also thinking about simplifying the developer's life when it came to deploying Akamai as code in the cloud, he said. "If you put your app on Akamai, all the risk management issues just go away," Weil said.

When it came to updating the mPulse Akamai products, Weil said the company tried to keep in mind how developers would use the tool. There are now hooks built into open source test communities, and developers have more control and insight into code analysis than before. And with those tweaks came the feedback Weil wanted to hear. "Developers are telling us this (version of mPulse) helps explain to business why they're doing what they're doing and now business can understand the build."

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