Thoughts right off the top of my head surrounding this surprise news.
In hindsight, I could have totally seen this coming. All the right pieces were in play. Every hint and cue was there but I didn’t suspect it because of my blind faith in Linode. But push that personal bias aside and what do you see?
- A company going stagnant compared to its competition.
- A company promising to expand service coverage but moving slowly (or not really moving at all).
- A company hinting at new products and services (for years) but never delivering.
- A company that feels same-oh same-oh despite a new website design.
And it’s easy to be content when you see a beloved company not changing much. The real lesson here is to have not detected something serious in play behind the scenes.
But what does this mean for Linode/Akamai, and its position in the cloud industry for coming years?
Why did Linode sell out?
No more growth left.
Linode has an amazing brand and quality service with a diehard fanbase. You’d think these principles alone could float any company for decades. But Linode is different.
It’s too big and too successful. It has too much market share and stands out too much. And when you’re that big in such a rapidly-changing industry…you have no choice but to keep evolving with the times.
I’d guess Linode, a [relatively] “small” privately owned company, did not have the funds, experience, or culture to evolve their old school datacenter-hosting operation into the massive cloud service shops that we see today in Amazon AWS, Google GCP, or Microsoft Azure.
Sure they tried keeping up with the times…adding dedicated CPU/GPU/MEM instances, block storage and load-balancers. But by the time they added containers, it felt like when your local liquor store finally accepted Apple Pay (wayyyyyy too late).
With the way cloud-computing was going, we were soon entering the edge-computing era…and Linode’s software setup was in no way flexible enough to handle that.
Ok so fine…their software and services weren’t going to take us into the future. But they still had their core hosting services, right? Well…that was kinda stagnant too. They never did get that coveted datacenter in South America (Brazil) like the market giants AWS/GCP did. They also never got around to offering bare metal like they teased (or did they?)
Don’t get me wrong, Linode was and still is massively successful. Just not enough to get themselves to the next level.
Cue in Akamai…
What will Akamai [probably] do with Linode?
DISCLAIMER here (although I should have mentioned it earlier)…I’m speaking purely out of my ass and have zero knowledge whatsoever about what’s actually mentioned in the boardroom.
I don’t know anymore than you do. It’s just a guess. But one that I’m willing to bet my money on based on conversations I’ve had with Linode team members, and outsiders who are dedicated or highly knowledgeable about Linode.
UPDATE: some key people way high up in the industry privately congratulated me on having very accurate guesses. 😀
Synergy and scaling in the edge-computing era
Akamai’s a massive CDN giant who 10 years ago, you would have looked at as being equal to Linode (a hosting infrastructure company). Neither being better or more essential/useful than the other. If anything…you’d argue Linode was easily more essential since its services could be used by all businesses down to the smallest ones whereas Akamai was only serviceable to large enterprises.
Well times have changed, haven’t they?!
Hosting nowadays isn’t just large companies putting simple static assets at the edge. It seems the future of webhosting is everyone (including small companies) shoving EVERYTHING to the edge. Or another way to put it…to automatically mirror or cloud-cluster every server process.
Why? I’m guessing it’s partly because edge-computing is trendy and seems sites are getting more global than ever serving clients from farther away than ever. Even a tiny site wants fast performance at the edge. So now everything is gonna get CDN’ed with more and more traditionally dynamic-processes being pushed to the edge.
But my other guess is that it might be technically easier now to build cloud infrastructure with edge-capability already built in. Especially with the almost-mainstream adoption of containerization. Simply put, ya just make a giant server cloud of nodes all over the world. All services put on it. And booom…instant edge-capability for all your services. (Instead of wasting time granularly deciding what does and-doesn’t get pushed to the edge.)
Long story short:
- Akamai (a traditional CDN company) will now have many more datacenters from which to operate their CDN mirrors.
- Akamai will also have more servers (and software) to do more than just CDN.
- Akamai will be able to offer more services from hosting to CDN, and everything in between.
- Akamai will (probably) aim to be a more simplified but easily as potent full-featured cloud service provider to AWS/GCP.
- Akamai also picks-up Linode’s existing client base and easily transitions them into edge-hosting. A built-in business with lots of upsell opportunities.
How does Johnny feel about this acquisition?
And will Johnny still trust Akamai/Linode moving forward?
Ahhh yes, the questions everyone asks. On one hand, the feeling is bittersweet. To have watched one of my most beloved companies (of my entire web development existence) being swallowed up by another company.
But on the other hand, I think it’s exciting news. Linode was in an evolve-or-die situation that we all knew it wasn’t able to do. This acquisition was the only way to keep it alive in the coming age of edge-computing. And if you’ve known Akamai, then you’ve also known Akamai to be an oldschool no-BS awesome company. They elicit many of the same virtues and values that I saw in Linode. It’s not like Linode got bought by a greedy giant in Amazon or some gimmicky new-kid on the block (I won’t name any names here).
It’s honestly the best situation for Linode right now. And I’ll happily stand by it. But if it ever goes to shit, you can bet your ass I’ll be the first to cry and complain and also first to start waving my UpCloud flag just sitting in my drawer.
What do you think? Place your guesses (bets) in the comments and let’s see if we’re right in 1, 2, and 5 years from now.