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Hyperscaler or ICP? 

Several terms are commonly used when referring to leading internet companies, those that operate large-scale data centres and typically are household names.

Terms used include internet content providers (ICP), hyperscalers and mega data centre operators. Meanwhile, a leading system vendor, in a recent briefing, favoured ‘global content providers’.  

The terms are used interchangeably but, not surprisingly, there are differences.

John Lively, principal analyst at market research firm, LightCounting, points out that the term ICP also stands for internet commerce provider, firms such as Alibaba and Amazon. While hyperscaler is shorthand for hyperscale data centre operator.

Moreover, not all ICPs are hyperscalers. For example, PayPal and eBay are ICPs (internet commerce providers) but they don’t operate massive data centres. And neither does Netflix which is undeniably an ICP (internet content provider).

LightCounting also notes that the term ‘cloud provider’ is used interchangeably with ICP (internet content provider), but that should be restricted to those companies that provide cloud computing and storage services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft with its Azure Cloud.

Safe to say that hyperscalers is an appropriate term when referring to the class of internet companies operating the largest scale data centres, to distinguish them from enterprises that operate more modest-sized data centres. But when referring to particular internet players, more care is needed with the descriptor.

Last thought, will these labels start to apply to the telcos - or should I say communications service providers (CSPs) - once they transform their networks to run virtualised network functions on commodity hardware within the data centre?

These are CSPs that will also be delivering content and offering cloud-based services.   

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