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Microsoft leans on Akamai for Net support

After a week of off-again, on-again access to several of its popular Web sites, the software giant links arms with Akamai to provide a safeguard against future outages.

After a week of off-again, on-again access to several of its popular Web sites, Microsoft has linked arms with Akamai Technologies to provide a safeguard against future outages, the software giant confirmed Monday.

Akamai, based in Cambridge, Mass., has begun operating secondary, backup DNS (domain name service) servers for Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft. DNS servers are the computers responsible for translating domain names such as Microsoft.com into numerical addresses that are understood by computers.

"Last Tuesday, we saw a network problem where we were having problems with our DNS network, and we had more malicious activity happen throughout the week, so as an immediate-term decision, we thought it was a good idea to distribute some DNS capacity," said Adam Sohn, a Microsoft spokesman. "Akamai is hosting some secondary DNS for Microsoft. We're still the primary (hoster)."

Sohn said Microsoft began working with Akamai last week.

"We've taken this as an immediate step that we thought makes sense for our customers, given the lessons we learned last week," he added.

The deal follows the software giant's black eye from outages at a number of Microsoft's Web sites, including Microsoft.com, MSN.com and WindowsMedia.com. The downtime came about first from a technical glitch that made sites inaccessible for nearly 24 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then from a series of attacks on the company's network routers.

Microsoft blamed its own technicians for the crucial technical error, which essentially unplugged the software giant's Internet connection, almost completely blocking access to some of its popular Web sites. That error originally stemmed from a lack of access to the company's DNS servers. Microsoft operates and maintains its own DNS servers.

Akamai, whose client list includes many of the Net's largest brand names, including Yahoo, focuses on ways of eliminating Internet bottlenecks and speeding download times.

The company has placed hundreds of servers inside Internet service provider (ISP) networks, as close to end users as possible. Its infrastructure allows many surfers who want a particular Web page, such as Yahoo's front door, to download much of the page from computers geographically close to their own instead of from computers across the country, effectively speeding download times.

Last week, the once-high flying upstart posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter results, but also a substantial loss with no sign of achieving profitability in the near term. The company, which has been facing increased competition in the market for Net-speeding infrastructure services, intends to reach the break-even point sometime in the second quarter of 2002 and expects its first profits in the third quarter of that year.