The latest new technology called "content distribution", which is intended to speed up the Internet, is currently attracting an abundance of interest and money and leading to a rash of startups.
Such companies are attempting to target their offerings at Web publishers that have so far been reluctant to use caching technology to speed up content delivery because of the difficulties involved in keeping such content fresh and updated.
Caching technology, which holds copies of online content locally to minimise the amount of time and bandwidth that information consumes when crossing over the Internet, also makes it impossible to measure traffic statistics.
But Sandpiper Networks claims its Footprint content delivery system improves Web site performance by distributing content from a globally distributed network of servers that are managed by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and major backbone providers.
Although about 20 per cent of Footprint's code is based on caching technology, it also borrows from Web hosting techniques and gives sites more control over their content than caching usually provides. The product is based on servers or "content distributors", and software, which is called a "content migrator."
The migrator sits on the Web publisher's site and connects it to a network of distributors placed at different ISP's points of presence and elsewhere throughout the Internet.
When a Web surfer requests a file from a site that uses Footprint, the migrator reroutes that request to the distributor, which provides the fastest available service based on how congested the network is and on geographical distance between distributor and client.
Leo Spiegel, Sandpiper's chief executive, said that AOL plans to use Footprint throughout its network, while search engine and caching company, Inktomi, has agreed to integrate its technology into the Footprint service.
To seal the deals, Sandpiper has also just received $21.5 million in venture capital from its partners and other high profile investors such as NBC and Times Mirror Company.
A second start-up, Akamai Technologies, was also launched earlier this year with the help of $8 million in venture funding from Battery Ventures and Polaris Venture Partners and has just appointed George Conrades, a veteran executive from IBM and former president of Internet service provider BBN, as chairman and chief executive.
Akamai is currently beta testing its Freeflow content delivery service, which also speeds up the delivery of Web pages through a network of its own servers that are located closer to end users.
Elsewhere, Intel has said it plans to build data centres that will offer various Internet services, while telecom equipment giant Lucent Technologies has just debuted a caching appliance based on its new IPWorx technology to detect and anticipate Internet traffic volume and replicate pages high demand Web pages.
Rumours are also circulating that Exodus Communications will enter the content distribution market directly.
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