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RealTime IT News

Who's Pushing Whose Pages Across the Web?

At its most basic level, think of the content delivery space as a pack of virtual paperboys with ultrafast data packets for bikes zipping through your network, which, of course, is your neighborhood.

Next week, the curtain will draw on scores of companies specializing in pushing Web pages over the Internet (as well as the service providers who purchase from them) during the Content Delivery Network 2001 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City.

That's quite a few firms for a space that has been roughly defined as "CDN" for (at most) two years now. As for CDN 2001, the conference is the brainchild of Los Gatos, Calif.-based Stardust.com, which tells the world that it "makes sense of new Internet stuff for Internet networking professionals."

As Stardust's Chief Technology Officer Martin Hall put it, the Penton Media-spinoff oversees vendor alliances and throws such trade shows as CDN to educate. Tracing the roots of CDN seems to be as challenging as trying to follow the transitory technology it addresses. Hall said the program began some four or five years ago as an IP multicast conference. This became the M-Cast summit a couple of years ago and the event has been known as CDN for the last two years.

In that time, Stardust (which also heads the Wireless Multimedia Forum) felt its job has been to keep a finger on the pulse of content delivery, which Hall said has changed substantially in the last 18 months.

"There has been an increasing recognition that IP as a protocol is like buried pipes or cables," Hall said. "Say that was five years ago. Now that we are in layer four or layer three, tech people need to change their routers and switches. But they are nervous about digging it up, feeling if it isn't broke, why fix it?"

Hall said the problem with this is that the technology needs to evolve along with peoples' desires to have the fastest Web access possible. That's why, Hall said, firms like Akamai Technologies Inc., have chosen to deal with content delivery in a different way. Knowing that businesses can't reshuffle all of their infrastructure, the Akamai's of the world initiate caching and redirections.

"With CDN, we want to bring in the pioneers of this industry as bracing keynotes," Hall said. "We want people to hear from the technologists -- the technical thinkers behind the new products and not just the business perspective."

This is the logical approach for a growing niche Stardust.com believes will inflate from $462 million by the end of 2001 to $2.16 billion in 2003.

If the keynote lineup is any indication, -- Inktomi's Chief Strategist Ed Haslam, Akamai's CEO Daniel Lewin, CacheFlow skipper Brian NeSmith, Cereva Networks Chief Scientist Brad Cain and Talarian's Chief Scientist Brian Whetten are scheduled speakers -- the summit should be a technical blast.

Other features worth noting include Tuesday's (Feb. 20) lineup of a "pre-conference workshop" consisting of top CDN analysts figures to appeal largely to journalists looking for some schooling. The next three days will consist of exhibitors showing their wares. Also, at least a dozen companies will unveil new products or alliances of some form or another.

Spidercache is one such firm. The group focuses purely on caching dynamic content, or caching pages "on the fly" as CEO Greg Parker explained to InternetNews.com recently. While Spidercache dips its ladle in static content, too, Parker said that rather than competing with the Akamais or Epic Realms of the world, the outfit's technology complements it by targeting the niche of dynamic content. This involves full and partial page caching, as well as caching of highly personalized sites, something the larger companies don't address.

"A lot of people say our space will get killed by broadband, but what we've found is that our products actually