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

expose server bottlenecks and break
through them,” Parker said.


As for the new product, Spidercache 1.5, Parker said the upgraded flagship
technology will feature the ability to monitor source codes and make
appropriate changes — something previously unavailable in the industry.
Spidercache 1.5 consists of an automatic configuration wizard, automatic
monitoring of Web application changes, and complete cache clearing.


Exodus Communications Inc., a content delivery specialist with more than
4,000 customers that operate within its Internet data center network, will
also be in full force at CDN 2001, coming off a reseller agreement with Novell Inc. spinoff and caching machine
Volera.


Unlike Spidercache, Exodus won’t be there to announce new deals, but it will
be one of the more highly visible firms as most of its vendor partners (see
Mirror Image, Volera) will be on hand. Exodus will discuss its three-tier
content delivery schema, which includes content acceleration on the
server-side, network and at the network’s edge.


Exodus’ Director of Product Marketing Scott Emo said a three-prong attack to
the technology cuts back on cache misses. Emo agreed CDN 2001 is an
important conference.


“It shows that [content delivery] has moved to the mainstream and is in the
forefront of our customers minds,” Emo said.


While the show will probably deliver what it promises — a whole lot of
complex technologies and the people who stand behind them — it will be
interesting to see if any bearish sentiment hovers over the sector, which
claimed one of its more compelling players this week when Intel’s Internet
Media Services division folded.

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