After watching the Web grow up, Akamai’s CEO Sagan to step down


Akamai CEO Paul Sagan at Giga OM Structure.

Akamai’s (s akam) CEO Paul Sagan plans to step down from his role by the end of next year, according to a company statement. The content delivery network has engaged a search firm to find his replacement, and Sagan has said he plans to stay at Akamai (s akam) until the replacement is found. The news is surprising, as Sagan has led the company since 1999, first as its president and then as CEO beginning in 2005. He also has just overseen a major restructuring of the company to help it adapt to a changing Web world.

From the statement:

“For nearly a decade and a half, Akamai has been on an incredible journey, prevailing against enormous odds and challenges to become a global leader in Internet technology and services,” Sagan said in a statement. “With the company demonstrating strong growth and business results, and as I approach my fifteenth year helping to lead the business, I have concluded this is the ideal time for the board to select the company’s next leader to drive Akamai’s continued growth for many years to come.”

In the 14 years Sagan has been at Akamai, he has seen the birth of broadband as a widespread phenomenon and positioned Akamai to provide the content du jour for the pipes available at the time. In the early days that content was mostly static Web elements over dial-up and DSL connections. As broadband speeds increased, services such as iTunes (s aapl) brought Akamai into the business of delivering music and movie downloads. But as Sagan took the role of CEO in 2005 the beginnings of a real streaming media culture were growing on the Web at the same time as social networks–and their focus on dynamic content–were in their formative stages.

As those new concepts expanded (along with broadband speeds), Akamai tried to understand how dynamic content would change its business. It also faced new competitors. Mobile sites exploded on the scene after the 2007 launch of the iPhone. Soon after that event Akamai did a rush of deals to get it more experience in the mobile sector and in delivering and tracking online data to serve marketers. But increasingly customers wanted to control their own content delivery, with wireless and wireline operators thinking about and introducing their own CDNs. Google even started its own edge-content caching efforts. Akamai was looking less and less relevant.

That history prompted the restructuring that we have covered in a series of stories, including the most significant shift for the company — letting go of the idea that it had to own the servers that cached content inside the operators’ networks. Perhaps after seeing that through, Sagan was ready to step down. Sagan steered Akamai through the birth of the web as we know it today. For anyone who has watched the space since 1999, it’s been an insane revolution. Sagan must be exhausted.

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