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What the Akamai acquisition of SOASTA means for software development

Akamai intends to acquire SOASTA in the second quarter of 2017. Here is what that acquisition may mean for software development and why data science matters.

Akamai Technologies, a worldwide provider of content delivery network services, intends to acquire applications...

performance monitoring company SOASTA sometime in the second quarter of 2017.

"People don't look at a content delivery network as something that's developer-friendly," said Ari Weil, senior director of industry marketing at Akamai, based in Cambridge, Mass. But the company wants to change that.

Akamai and SOASTA already have 225 shared customers, "and with this acquisition, we think we can give developers a new way to understand what real users are doing when they use an app," Weil said. "And we can provide new ideas on how to optimize or change behavior like updating traffic management or cellular use cases."

The Akamai acquisition comes at a time when improving user experience has never been more important. A recent SOASTA survey highlighted the complexities: Just a 100 millionth of a second delay in load times can result in users leaving a site or not making a purchase. Smart use of application performance monitoring (APM) tools can help companies determine where, what and how their software is underperforming, but all that data can lead to the bigger problem of overwhelmed analysts and testers who don't know where to begin to make the fixes.

SOASTA is one of several in the APM space to build data science into monitoring tools. In an interview conducted before the Akamai acquisition announcement, Tom Lounibos, CEO at SOASTA, based in Mountain View, Calif., said data science brings order to the data chaos and ends the guessing game.

"Now, companies can measure in deep ways what [a software tweak] did for them instead of just putting a marketing campaign out there and hoping it works," he said. "What data science brings in the digital era is the ability to compare the dynamic elements versus the static elements and then measure after it's over. Now, the world can use data science to change campaigns dynamically and, over time, they become better and better because of machine learning."

Lounibos said SOASTA takes the on-the-fly analysis part of its APM service so seriously, he considers the company to really be in the data science business. His company of "quants" -- for quantitative analytics, another term for data scientists -- has spent a lot of time in the last year selling the concept of data science to customers.

"There's just too much data out there to apply anything actionable," he said. Just using the term data science to sell the platform turned out to be too vague for customers. But by leading with a detailed explanation of the role of data science in software development and delivery, the case for an APM service became easier to make, he said.

And it's certainly a big reason for the Akamai acquisition, Weil said. One of Akamai's strengths is data collection, specifically around internet and cellular performance. Weil said the company collects 95 exabytes of outbound data over the course of a year, but often, that information does not end up in the hands of developers.

By teaming with SOASTA, Weil said the goal was to "not just play performance whack-a-mole, but actually give developers tools to understand the changing user flows through the app and the insight to take action exactly where it's needed. This is the really compelling differentiation for this entire platform."

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