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4/11/2012
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Dell, EdgeCast Shake Up Content Delivery Networks

With network operators preparing to enter the CDN field, Dell and EdgeCast team up to offer a faster, more efficient service.

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Dell is producing a content delivery platform based on its PowerEdge servers and software from number-three content delivery network service supplier EdgeCast Networks. If the combination catches on with telecommunications carriers, it may eventually push EdgeCast out of the CDN service business. Right now the CDN field is dominated by specialists such as Akamai, LimeLight Networks, and Level 3, which together control 85% of the CDN market, according to EdgeCast's website. But EdgeCast, which is unique among service suppliers because it has its own software division, would rather gain revenue by selling software to the disrupters than sit on the sidelines and be disrupted.

While it's relatively easy to place servers in a variety of locations around the world, the software to manage them needs to be able to establish the best routes for delivering content based on both the nature of the content and the location of the user. It also needs to be able to convert video or other rich content into the format required by the user's device. Doing both of these things efficiently remains valuable intellectual property, and EdgeCast does this, according to Chad Andrews, vertical strategist at Dell, in an interview.

EdgeCast manages its content delivery network, comprised of thousands of servers in 30 Internet hubs around the world, with just four engineers, said James Segil, president and cofounder of EdgeCast. Its software includes optimized codec programs for compressing and decompressing video.

[ Learn more about how content delivery networks speed up websites and cloud applications. See IBM, Akamai Partner To Speed Cloud Apps. ]

"Every single teleco service provider globally is trying to build some kind of content delivery network," said Segil. The rapid expansion of the use of video, pictures, and multimedia text and graphics is putting a strain on network operators' capacity that would be relieved by effective use of a content delivery network. A film that is suddenly in demand from many parts of the world, for example, would be more effectively streamed from servers close to requestors than struggling to scale from one point.

Segil acknowledged that existing content delivery networks such as Akamai or CDNetworks are "intermediaries." "We will be somewhat dis-intermediated over time," he conceded. So EdgeCast has decided to become a software supplier to the disrupters rather than try to resist the change. It teamed up with Dell because it found Dell's hardware "easiest to configure and optimize," Segil explained in an interview.

Dell's hardware/software package has been dubbed Dell Deliver. If the package catches on, it is likely to speed an expected disruption in content delivery and make content distribution less expensive and more routine for large and heavily trafficked websites. EdgeCast may find its software used by hundreds of content delivery network suppliers while its combined weight with Dell pushes it out of the CDN business and into the role of CDN software supplier. Content delivery networks collect fees from companies that want the content on their websites to be cached in server memory so it is quickly available to users everywhere. A server in Singapore, Hong Kong, or Tokyo with content from a company in Boston, for example, will reduce the latency imposed by distance for Asian users.

Cloud computing vendors such as Amazon and Rackspace have found they can add content delivery networks as another service available in their infrastructure as a service. Amazon calls its version CloudFront.

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