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VitalStream's Importance to Internap

The question I get most frequently regarding Web content delivery king Akamai Technologies (Nasdaq: AKAM  ) is whether current competition could cripple its competitive advantage. The topic came up again Friday now that InternapNetwork Services (Nasdaq: INAP  ) has agreed to acquire Akamai competitor VitalStream (Nasdaq: VSTH  ) for $217 million in stock.

I wish there were a simple answer to this one, but there isn't. Internap has long been a reseller of Akamai's services. A cordial relationship has existed between the two firms at least as long as I've owned Akamai shares, which dates back to early 2004.

Now Internap, long known for handling bandwidth, will blend VitalStream's network into its own, which would, at least in theory, substitute for the Akamai services it is selling. And that seems to be a pretty strong business. SEC filings show that Internap derived $5.2 million, or 11.8%, of its revenue in the current quarter from partners. What's more, that business was up 29.4% year over year.

Meanwhile, VitalStream has been flourishing. Revenue and gross profit have risen by a compound annual growth rate of 52.4% and 47.2%, respectively, over the past three years. And a recent deal for Eonstreams put the company front and center in enabling streamed video advertising.

So, yeah, this deal poses problems for Akamai, but they're minor in comparison with the overall opportunity. Accustream media research reports that total video streams over the Web have increased to 18 billion last year from 284.6 million during 1998. That's an average growth rate of -- wait for it -- 70% (!) annually.

With TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO  ) taking eyeballs from classic TV ads, and with iTunes and others hawking downloadable TV shows and movies, I'd say this growth isn't likely to slow soon. And that's likely to be good news for both Internap and Akamai.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers owns shares of Akamai, which is aMotley Fool Rule Breakersselection. TiVo is aStock Advisorpick. Get the skinny on all of the stocks in Tim's portfolio by checking his Fool profile. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is a rebel with a cause.

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