The Akamai Story: From Theory to Practice

04/21/2004 12:30 PM La Sala de Puerto Rico

F. Thomson Leighton, Ph.D. '81, Co-Founder and Chief Scientist, Akamai; Professor of Applied Mathematics, MIT

Description: If you have ever wondered what it means for a website to become "Akamaized," this lecture about the company's origins explains much of the mystery. But before there was an Akamai, there were research problems lots of them. Nearly 15 years ago, Tim Berners-Lee, architect of the World Wide Web, asked Tom Leighton to think about solutions to future — and now familia r— Internet issues: bottlenecks that form when users flood to a particular site, often along a single Internet supply line. Leighton's team generated algorithms (and publications and advanced degrees) while figuring out the fastest means to move information from here to there. Along the way, they learned some tricks to outsmart Internet service providers who slow traffic down by bumping competitors' data from their network lines. Akamai (which means clever and cool in Hawaiian) got its start in the MIT 50k competition, and took off when some big name clients decided to give the company a trial run. Paramount, ESPN, Apple, and Microsoft recognized the importance of Akamai's Internet optimization strategy: distributing servers and routing software to the "edge" or end users, rather than centralizing services. Akamai survived the stock market "bubble" and collapse, and now serves a diverse global market.

About the Speaker(s): Tom Leighton has published more 100 research papers in the areas of parallel algorithms and architectures, distributed computing, communication protocols for networks, combinatorial optimization, probabilistic methods, VLSI computation and design, sequential algorithms, and graph theory. He is also the author of two books, including a leading text on parallel algorithms and architectures.

Leighton holds numerous patents involving algorithms for networks, cryptography, and digital rights management — many of which have been licensed or sold to major corporations.

Tom Leighton received a B.S.E. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Princeton University in 1978, and Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from MIT in 1981. Leighton was a Bantrell Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) from 1981 to 1983, and he joined the MIT faculty in Applied Mathematics in 1982.

He recently began a two-year appointment to the President's Information Technology Advisory Council. Most recently, he has been named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Host(s): Vice President Resource Development, Industrial Liaison Program


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