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John Foley
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Startup Of The Week: FastSoft Accelerates Video Streaming

Its appliances employ a souped-up version of TCP that was developed in Cal Tech's networking lab.

As more companies distribute video to consumers and partners over the Internet, they're contending with bottlenecks caused by the Transmission Control Protocol. FastSoft's appliances use a souped-up version of TCP to speed file transfers from point A to point B. What's unique is that an appliance is only needed to send files, not to receive them.
--John Foley


Steven Low

The explosion in content "is not a blip," says Low

HEADQUARTERS: Pasadena, Calif.

PRODUCT: FastSoft E Series Internet accelerator appliances

PRINCIPALS: Steven Low, co-founder, chairman, and CEO; Cheng Jin, co-founder and VP of engineering

INVESTORS: Miramar Venture Partners, Caltech

EARLY CUSTOMERS: Honda, Post Group, Reuters Australia

FastSoft's FastTCP technology was developed by co-founders Low and Jin at California Institute of Technology's networking lab and brought to market under a tech transfer agreement that gives FastSoft exclusive licensing rights. The research to develop FastTCP was funded by Cisco, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the National Science Foundation.

Standard TCP minimizes packet loss by throttling back data transmission when packets drop, resulting in slower performance. FastTCP employs congestion control to avoid the conditions that cause TCP-related slowdowns. How so? With the help of an "estimator" component, it determines how many and which packets to transmit and when to send them. The result is higher throughput rates. FastSoft claims its appliances can transmit video and bulk data up to 30 times faster.

WAN optimization (think Cisco or Juniper) accelerates video and file sharing, but it requires equipment on both ends of the pipe. Aspera sells a suite of high-speed file transfer apps based on its Fasp protocol.

Video distribution is FastSoft's sweet spot; the vendor demonstrated high-def streaming at the recent Interop show. Its technology can be used for sharing other gigabyte-size files, too. Honda is using a FastSoft appliance to send CAD files from an R&D facility in Los Angeles to Tokyo, while an unnamed customer is using FastSoft to back up files from one data center to another. The thing they all have in common is that no special software or hardware is required on the receiving end.

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