December 20, 2023

Akamai’s Michael Kleef Reveals Key Shifts in Cloud Computing Landscape

By Randy Ferguson

Welcome to a conversation with Michael Kleef, Vice President of Product Marketing, Developer Advocacy, and Competitive Intelligence at Akamai Technologies. Today, we’re privileged to have him share his insights with Cloud Tweaks on several pivotal questions surrounding the dynamic world of cloud computing. Michael’s extensive experience and keen understanding of the industry make him the perfect voice to address these critical topics, from the shift in cloud computing paradigms to future strategies and market trends.

Given the transformative shift from centralized to distributed cloud computing, how do you see this evolution impacting the cloud industry in terms of performance, scalability, and security, as outlined in the recent reports?

The cloud model is changing. The centralized, platform-centric approach to cloud design was not built to address a future where companies need to put workloads further to the edge and, ultimately, closer to the user. It was a model built for the cloud of the last decade, not the next.

What we’ve heard in research by organizations like ClearPath Strategies and SlashData, as well as from our own customers, is that a more distributed model makes companies more competitive. 33% of IT decision-makers who say they plan to increase their use of distributed cloud over the upcoming year cite security and reliability as the primary reasons for their increased use. Of those, 71% say distributed cloud provides better visibility into security issues locally, 66% say it provides more granular control over data and access to resources, and 58% say it provides redundancy and failover capabilities across multiple locations.

The ability to bring workloads and data closer to end users also naturally helps improve performance and reduce latency, which is very important for use cases like streaming or gaming that rely on real-time experiences.

With the transition to distributed cloud, what are the primary challenges companies might face, particularly regarding the costs of implementation, maintenance, and the complexity of managing distributed systems, as highlighted in the ClearPath ITDM Report?

Cost and complexity are always top of mind in any market shift. This is no different with what the reports found when they looked at the shift from centralized to distributed cloud. But a shift isn’t always an either-or decision. In fact, distributed cloud models can complement legacy centralized implementations, especially in areas like AI where modeling needs the heavy horsepower of the world’s biggest data centers and the reach of a more distributed compute model. Additionally, those more distributed compute models can often provide cost savings in important areas like egress and transfer fees, in addition to freedom from PaaS services, which are often used to lock customers into a provider’s platform.

Reflecting on the growing adoption among developers, how is this trend transforming their development approach, and what new skills or methodologies might they need to embrace, as indicated in the SlashData Developer Report?

It’s interesting how history repeats itself. In the early 2000’s, companies looked at building distributed services models around Services Oriented Architecture. While there were challenges with it, building distributed applications will likely require similar thinking. Components of the application which exist as services on the edge calling application services in core compute regions. But that’s also why we’re seeing more focus over the past year on making workloads more portable and adopting more cloud native tooling into the mix.

With a significant number of organizations considering distributed cloud as mission-critical, how does Akamai plan to evolve its services to meet these growing strategic needs? What future trends in the adoption of distributed cloud do you foresee?

One could argue we’ve been evolving to this for the past twenty-five years. We began as a content delivery network, added world class security to our portfolio, and – with the acquisition of Linode – layered powerful cloud computing services on top of that foundation.

We rolled out over a dozen cloud computing regions over the course of the year that all feature a new architecture design and hardware configuration to enable high-performance, scalable cloud resources to meet the needs of workloads that require lower-latency and true global scalability. And we’re only getting started.

When we look at the cloud, we see it as more than just racks of servers in a building. We know the power of the cloud is in the connections between the dots on the map. And that’s something Akamai does better than anyone. Because we’ve been connecting and securing those dots for some of the world’s biggest brands for the past two decades.

Finally, looking towards the next decade, how do you envision the role of distributed cloud evolving, and what technological innovations or industry trends do you believe will shape its future development?

It’s going to be more critical for businesses to improve their user experience. Distributed cloud plays a key role in helping them do that. The current cloud got us to where we are today. No denying the incredible innovation it spurred. But customers need more – more reach, more scale, more connectivity – to succeed in the next decade. And that’s being driven by a combination of end user expectations for faster responsiveness and also escalating volumes of data being generated from apps, devices and IoT, which all has to be collected, stored, processed, and presented back. How do we scale that? It’s sure not going to be all done in mainframe-like hyperscaler regions. It will require workloads at the edge, where companies like Akamai excel.

As a result, these next ten years will also see a continuing shift to more open and portable workloads – such that services can move to where they are needed. Companies have already made the move to multicloud. That’s one of the reasons why cloud native technologies will be a critical piece to the cloud’s future.

As the research shows, the distributed cloud is happening and will only continue to evolve and grow as we enter this next era of technology.


Michael Kleef’s insights provide a clear understanding of the current state and future direction of cloud computing. His emphasis on the transition towards a more distributed, user-focused, and scalable cloud infrastructure highlights the evolving needs of businesses in the digital age. The insights from Akamai, a leader in cloud services, offer a valuable perspective for anyone looking to navigate the complex and ever-changing landscape of cloud technology. We thank Michael for his valuable contributions and look forward to seeing how his predictions and strategies unfold in the coming years.

By Randy Ferguson

Randy Ferguson

Randy boasts 30 years in the tech industry, having penned articles for multiple esteemed online tech publications. Alongside a prolific writing career, Randy has also provided valuable consultancy services, leveraging a deep knowledge of technological trends and insights.
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