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Akamai, Oracle Back Dynamic Delivery Standard

Cambridge, Mass., online delivery network Akamai has partnered with software giant Oracle to support a set of standards governing speedy delivery of personalized Web content.

To be introduced next month, the new standards will apply to the creation and delivery of "dynamic" Web page elements that can be instantly updated and made specific to individual users -- the building blocks that enable, for instance, continually updated stock quotes or auction data.

Akamai is a pre-eminent player in the online content delivery game, having a network of almost 10,000 servers through which it can route Net traffic and hasten download times. Oracle last October launched an e-business software that includes caching capabilities, improving Web site delivery.

But both companies, along with their competitors, are trying to improve delivery of the kinds of personalized content that is generated for individual users. Advanced Web pages contain not only static elements each can already deliver but also personalized elements that are non-cachable by existing software and hardware.

The new standard, called Edge Side Includes (ESI), is designed to allow for the assembly of dynamic, updatable page fragments. That means that personalized Web pages, either within corporate intranets or the Internet, could be assembled at servers close to end users, hastening downloads of the whole page.

Support by two of the industry's largest players gives the standard almost instant credibility. The companies are expected to submit ESI for approval by industry standards organizations this spring.

"ESI will help to solve the scalability problem with sites that create unique page configurations for such things as personalization," said Neal Goldman, research director at Boston consultancy The Yankee Group. Without such standards, he noted, the Web site's originating server must send all updatable elements, making for slower performance.

In addition, the standards mean that e-businesses can cut the complexity of their content delivery infrastructures. Advantages for Web developers include easier upgrades, no need for different codes for multiple hardware and software vendors and support for their existing applications.

"We believe that the best thing we can do for our customers is to fight complexity on every front," said Rene Bonvanie, an Oracle vice president of marketing. "ESI will help reduce the complexity and cost of developing and deploying new applications that are optimized to deliver fast content, even on sites where that content is constantly changing throughout the day and visitor volume is high."

George Kurian, an Akamai vice president of marketing, said, "We are excited that two leading vendors of Internet infrastructure have used an open language to make our products and services interoperate. This enables companies to develop and deploy more high-performing Web sites with less complexity and less infrastructure."

Oracle will offer support for the standard in the next version of its e-business software package, to be released next month. Akamai will implement the standard as part of its content delivery service, also beginning next month.