Content delivery specialist Akamai says it can now accelerate any IP-based application over the Internet, and will offer this capability as a managed service.

Akamai has servers located in ISP network centres all over the world, and uses these to cache its customers' web content and applications for local delivery. The new service lets IP applications use Akamai's routing and caching capabilities to overcome latency and bandwidth limitations, said David Keane, the company's director of application performance solutions.

"We have been doing this for 12 to 18 months for web-based apps, but now we're finding significant demand coming from outside the browser, for example from ERP systems doing batch updates, from Citrix and so on," he added.

"It turns out that half of enterprise software is not web-based."

He said that while businesses could use WAN acceleration appliances from the likes of Juniper, Riverbed or Cisco, those require a box at each end of the link.

"That's fine if you're connecting two offices together, but if your users are distributed or are in other companies - business partners using your extranet, for example - then ours is the best solution," he claimed.

While the company hosting the application will need to install an Akamai gateway in its datacentre, its clients can use shared gateways located in their closest Akamai-equipped network centre - Keane said that the company has equipment in 2500 locations worldwide.

He acknowledged that the Akamai service, called IPA, cannot do everything that a WAN appliance can. For example, it doesn't offer application optimisation or CIFS/NFS acceleration.

However, it does accelerate TCP between gateways, and it offers a feature that the appliances lack - a routing technology called SureRoute. This uses the Akamai servers in the Internet to find the fastest routes available.

"No other solution can impact the 'middle mile'," Keane claimed. "SureRoute means you don't automatically use the BGP route, which may not be the fastest.

"It mitigates latency, because we will find a faster route than BGP. It also gives 100 percent availability and minimises packet loss, because it looks for BGP plus two alternate paths and sends replicas of the data packets over all three."

He added that SureRoute can even accelerate SSL traffic, simply by sending it over a faster route.

No pricing was available for IPA, but Keane said it would be based on the number of users and the number of applications terminated, and claimed it would be "competitive."

He added that IPA's "biggest competitor is customers having to build another datacentre" in order to serve clients in other geographical regions.