RealTime IT News

Digital Island Launches 2Way Web Services

San Francisco-based content delivery network Digital Island Inc. made its first significant move Thursday under the aegis of Cable & Wireless, the British telecommunications power that bought it in August for $340 million in cash.

The new offering is called 2Way Web Services and, at a time when companies' wallets are considerably lighter than they were two years ago when Digital Island's CDN service footprint was great, it is designed to host and manage Web infrastructure services for enterprises. Firms will embrace this offering, Digital Island hopes, because they will be able to increase the profitability and performance while shaving the cost of their online operations.

Digital Island, which became a wholly-owned Cable & Wireless subsidiary August 31, plans to mount its new services on its new parent's IP backbone and will manage its hosting facilities.

With the step up from its original CDN offerings -- the Footprint Service Enabling Technology -- the company's 2Way Web Services support pretty much any Internet business models, including ad-driven, subscription-based services, online purchase, payment and fulfillment of goods and services, as well as user verification and authentication. That is to say, the services portfolio supports all types of transaction applications that require end users to exchange content and require both edge and/or decentralized computing resources from a content delivery network and/or from managed hosting facilities, and a private global network.

2Way Web is separated into three packages -- one for transactions, one for content delivery and one for content management -- all of which aim to serve businesses audio and video media much the way Digital Island served them when it jockeyed for CDN delivery dominance with Akamai Technologies Inc. before it was acquired. 2Way services are modular, too, meaning other Web services from Digital Island or other companies can be configured so additional infrastructure need not be purchased.

That's nice, but how does it work?

In terms of monetizing digital assets, Digital Island competes with a number of notable tech firms beyond Akamai, including IBM, Qwest, Exodus, and AT&T. As for the way Digital Island's battle with Akamai in the CDN space, the firm's Chief Marketing Officer, Tim Wilson, said a major difference is in the breadth of services it plans to offer with 2Way.

He told InternetNews.com that a major difference between the firms is in Digital Island's ability to help users make transactions, something Wilson said is difficult with Akamai's one-way Web service.

"To interact and transact business, you do need to cost effectively deliver content to support transactions AND do the transaction," Wilson said. "Our 2Way Web Services support transactions; one way services do not."

One way to look at it is at the music delivery level, he said.

"For example, a song may be popular this month and exist at the edge but as new hits take over, it is more cost effective to use centralized archiving services and network to deliver that content," Wilson said. "2Deliver helps determine the right combination of edge and/or core computing assets, wherease Akamai is always at the edge alone. To build the same 2Deliver service, a customer would have to turn to Akamai and another hosting provider and "glue" it together or integrate themselves. We allow a single digital rights management module, a single commerce module and a single asset management module to be used regardless of the application/content's popularity."

In a nutshell, Wilson said, Digital Island competes with Akamai over "parts of Web sites."

What do the analysts say?

Research firm Giga Information Group conducted tests on 2Way to determine the legitimacy of Digital Island's return-on-investment (ROI) promise. According to Giga, 2Way is the real deal.

The study found that global 500 companies using Digital Island's integrated hosting and content delivery solution experienced a payback period averaging three months -- or four times faster than competing solutions which rely on content delivery without integrated hosting. Indeed, the average enterprise in the study saved more than $892,000 per year.

If the chatter surrounding Microsoft Corp.'s high-profile .NET initiative isn't enough to convince people that Web services are important to the evolution of the way the world does business on the Web, perhaps testimony from research firms is.

Gartner Inc. Research Director Robert Batchelder said: "As Web services evolve, content, transactions and application systems will be increasingly distributed across global networks. Sophisticated network providers must keep pace with this trend, by offering a full range of connectivity, managed hosting, content delivery, transaction processing, and operational management services. Globally connected companies will increasingly rely on such services in order to maximize the return on their Web services investment."