Communications service providers have a new angle on how to avoid simply operating “dump pipes” in the Internet age while users of those pipes make all the money from Internet commerce. In recent months carriers have been looking seriously at content acceleration, said Joshua Bixby.
Bixby is president and co-founder of Strangeloop, a developer of content acceleration technology that has inked deals with Level 3 Communications and Asian carrier Pacnet, as well two other unnamed service providers, including one in North America and a large carrier that operates outside the U.S.
“The largest telcos have decided that content delivery is within their strong scope of influence,” said Bixby in an interview. “They are now drawing broader circles around what’s in the core. . . We’ve seen a lot of demand from these organizations to come up with a competitive content delivery offering.”
Content delivery per se is not new. For years companies such as Akamai have offered caching technology designed to speed how fast Web pages load by storing content from popular websites around the Internet, thereby minimizing download times.
More recently companies like Strangeloop have added another tool to the content delivery arsenal by rewriting HTML as it flows through the network and by tweaking how Internet routing protocols work to minimize data transfer times. Offerings such as these have come to be known as content acceleration technologies.
Companies like Akamai that initially focused on caching are adding content acceleration to their portfolios. Akamai last year bought Cotendo, whose technology was a key element of a content acceleration offering launched by AT&T that had garnered the likes of The Weather Channel on its customer list.
Bixby believes AT&T was poised for a great 2012 in the content acceleration market and that Akamai was threatened by AT&T’s ability to leverage its own legacy to get the offering on key government approved-for-purchase lists. Other service providers now have awakened to the content acceleration opportunity and are “aggressively” pursuing their own offerings, Bixby said.
In addition to Akamai and Strangeloop, other possible sources of content acceleration technology for the service providers are Edgecast and Limelight. But Bixby argued that Strangeloop may have greater appeal to the service providers for a couple of reasons.
None of the other companies allow service providers to purchase their content acceleration offerings without also purchasing caching, according to Bixby. Yet, he said, “A lot of the large telcos have caching already – they built it or bought it from someone else.” Strangeloop’s research found that seven out of the top 10 service providers already have caches.
Another potential differentiator for Strangeloop is that unlike competitors, the company does not operate its own content delivery network. Instead the company’s approach is to install its software in key points of presence operated by service provider customers.
Competitors may install software in some service provider POPs but typically rely largely on their own network and want to maintain control of the entire content delivery infrastructure underlying the carrier customer’s offering, Bixby said.
How service providers will monetize content acceleration offerings is up to them. But Bixby said he expects some of them to borrow Akamai’s approach, which calls for a basic offering at no charge that supports higher-value offerings.
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