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Akamai, IBM promise zippy Web services

The companies team up to sell a hosting service that will deliver Web services applications using Akamai's network of servers around the world.

Akamai and IBM plan to unveil a service Thursday that they say will speed the delivery of Web-based business applications.

The Web hosting service will utilize IBM's Java-based WebSphere software. Rather than running Web applications on internal servers, businesses can contract with Akamai or IBM to have Akamai's worldwide network of servers host the software.

Akamai currently hosts Web content on its servers, speeding page downloads for its clients' site browsers. Marketed as "Akamai EdgeComputing Powered by WebSphere," the service marks Akamai's expansion into the application hosting business.

EdgeComputing technology creates and hosts several copies of IBM's Web-based WebSphere applications across its network of servers. The service is designed to improve the speed and performance of the Web-based applications that a company uses by creating and hosting copies of the software that are physically closer to its customers or partners.

For example, a business could use Akamai EdgeComputing to host a company's Web site registration. Rather than bogging down a company's office servers, the Akamai service can offload tasks such as authenticating a Web site visitor.

Akamai and IBM plan to announce the service at an analyst briefing in New York, where Big Blue is set to outline plans for its ongoing on-demand initiative. On-demand, or utility, computing allows companies to purchase computing resources on an as-needed basis, much like people purchase water or electricity.

The Akamai service will give WebSphere customers the choice of deploying Web services internally or as a hosted service.

"With this WebSphere/Akamai solution, companies can more flexibly serve their customers and trading partners, and improve their ability to respond to market opportunities," Bob Sutor, director of WebSphere Infrastructure Software at IBM, said in a statement.

Web services applications are usually composed of several individual Web services that can interact. Businesses use programming tools from companies like IBM and Microsoft to write and deploy Web applications that can easily share data across disparate systems.

Akamai executives said customers are likely to initially use the service to host just one or two of its Web services. The company, however, says it sees a big opportunity in hosting an array of business applications.

"There are many applications and Web-based services that are written on WebSphere, and having them run on our platform provides a deployment model for these types of applications," said Bobby Blumofe, vice president of technology strategy at Akamai. "Customers no longer have to worry about the infrastructure."

IBM's Global Services professional services division and Akamai will each sell the package.

Akamai eventually plans to host Web services applications written using Microsoft's .Net line of development tools, executives said. The company declined to say when it might launch that initiative.

"I expect a (that) growing portion of our customers over time will be hosting Web services on our network," Blumofe said.