Caching in on the New Opportunity

Content delivery networks may be a gold mine for some enterprising partners.

Opportunity is brewing quickly in the fledgling world of content delivery networks (CDN).

Experts believe that in about three years, business customers will invest heavily in content delivery services, which will handle video, interactive and other content that cannot yet run with current Web configurations.

The CDN services market is projected to grow from $97 million last year to $2.2 billion in 2003, according to the HTRC Group. CDN product sales will climb from $122 million in 2000 to $1.3 billion in 2004.

The most likely users of CDNs will be corporate intranets, as well as public Internet sites. For instance, IBM and Merrill Lynch have installed CDN intranets.

Essentially, a CDN is an overlay network that runs on top of the Internet to hasten rich content downloads. Beyond the "static" content currently administered by ISPs and ASPs, most CDNs handle only streaming audio and video.

Some CDNs operated by market leaders Akamai and Digital Island leverage ISPs existing data centers and pipes, while new breeds of CDNs such as Orblynx opt for a satellite-based approach.

In addition, some CDNs are shifting to "dynamic" content, such as Web pages generated during personalization. Still ahead is "interactive" content, involving bidirectional real-time communication.

While most CDN vendors sell direct, some, like SpiderCache, plan to add reseller programs in North America. Also, Network Appliances, another player in distributed caching, has teamed with IBM Global Services.

Meanwhile, smaller, specialized integrators like Pulse Digital, an integrator specializing in video, has produced a solution that integrates streaming media technology by Anystream. And Minerva Networks, a maker of video gateways, has worked with smaller integrators in Video over IP technology for CDN telco trials in Florida.

"Voice and data are quickly becoming commodities. There are lots of possibilities in video for both integrators and ISPs," says Mauro Bonomi, president and CEO of Minerva. "An integrator can customize the way consumers navigate through the (video) environment. An ISP can either simply manage the network, or provide the content, as well," Bonomi says.

While infrastructure players like overseas telco Hong Kong Telecom are adding CDN services, some see ISPs creating partnerships. "I dont envision ISPs in their present configurations as migrating over to become CDNs. Instead, ISPs and ASPs will partner with CDNs," says David Yerushalmi, director of business development for eMikolo Networks, maker of an appliance that integrates caching with CDN technologies.

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