Content Distribution Meets E-Learning

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-05-28

Vendors including Cisco Systems and CacheFlow are seizing on corporate interest in content distribution to use the new caching technology for applications such as electronic learning.

Cisco is expected to announce Wednesday a new end-to-end e-learning initiative, offering its content distribution line of products to support e-learning applications to both carrier customers such as Digital Island, which is being acquired by Cable & Wireless, and enterprises such as Express Personnel Services.

"Content distribution helps eliminate the bandwidth barrier that many companies are facing when looking at rich applications," said Julie OBrien, Ciscos product marketing manager.

Cisco is practicing what it preaches with the product launch. Instead of flying 300 of its salespeople to a hotel to train them in how to sell the e-learning bundle, Cisco streamed a tutorial to 2,000 people in conference rooms located in Asia, Europe and the U.S.

Cisco saved big money: An off-site training trip averages $2,000 per person for hotel accommodations, plane tickets and expenses, OBrien said. The new setup cost $35 per head. So instead of spending $600,000 to train 300 people, Cisco spent $70,000 to train 2,000 salespeople.

This is the kind of bang for the buck other companies would like to get, Cisco executives believe. Their belief that e-learning is the next big thing comes straight from the top.

"One of the huge waves of bandwidth requirements will be e-learning. I have a huge interest in seeing that happen. It will require most of our customers to redo their networks," Cisco CEO John Chambers told reporters in December.

Other vendors share Ciscos optimism that the next generation of content distribution networks will be built with individual business applications in mind. Sunnyvale, Calif.-based CacheFlow has carved a niche in building both enterprise CDNs and overseas CDNs aimed at cutting expensive international bandwidth bills. The thriving businesses have been built "through listening to our customers," said Patrick Harr, CacheFlows vice president of marketing.

E-learning is also a big focus at CacheFlow, which powers customers such as Legal Research Networks, a company that bills itself as a "knowledge service provider," providing e-learning tools and content for the legal services industry. Companies such as CacheFlow and Cisco present powerful competition to traditional content distributors like Akamai Technologies, LRN executives said.

"We didnt need 500 or 2,000 nodes around the world; we work with a small group of companies with a few specific nodes," said John Hoenemier, LRNs director of network engineers.

Using content distribution also increases the security of corporate networks, making them less vulnerable to denial-of-service attacks, Hoenemier said.

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