Delivering Content Delivery

SAN MATEO (05/20/2000) - In an effort to address customer demands for tailored services, content-delivery and content-management vendors, including Akamai Technologies Inc. and Worldweb.net, are developing specialized solutions that are designed to fill in the holes left between existing products.

The new breed of products are the result of quick growth in the content market, which has created a landscape of many "bits and pieces" and niche markets that leave customers with pieced-together solutions, said Rita Knox, vice president and research director at Gartner, in Stamford, Connecticut.

"It's very messy right now," Knox explained. "It's very opportunistic; this is very much a bottom-up process of discovery and implementation [as well as] deployment of technology, and it will go on for a while. All these little 'widget technologies,' which are focused on doing a particular function in a particular context, are there because people are looking for very specific solutions, not general-purpose solutions."

Akamai and F5 Networks Inc. are embedding content-delivery technology into F5's BIG-IP Controller traffic management products. The aim of the move is to speed up Web site performance by streamlining content requests and routing them into Akamai's content-delivery network.

Akamai requires URLs and content to be tagged for delivery over the Akamai network using the company's FreeFlow Launcher software in a process the company dubbed "Akamaization." The product to be formed from the combination of F5 and Akamai technologies is called Akamaizer.

Akamaizer technology will be included as a software module in F5's BIG-IP, allowing content to be "Akamaized" on the fly as it passes through the traffic-management appliance as well as directing content requests to correct Akamai network locations, according to Dan Matte, director of product management at F5.

"Because traffic is flowing through our devices at the origin site, we're in a really good position: We're able to monitor the traffic, monitor the links that are being requested, and make intelligent traffic-management decision based on those values going back and forth between the client and servers," Matte said.

F5 also will create a stand-alone appliance with the Akamaizer technology that can be plugged in to a company's system.

The BIG-IP Akamaizer product is expected to be available in the third quarter of 2000; a beta version of the Akamaizer appliance and BIG-IP devices will be available next month.

In the content-management arena, Worldweb.net this week will release its Java-based Expressroom I/0 solution. The product relies heavily on XML to transform and deliver content to various devices as well as "return control of the content to people who create it," according to Brian Loew, CEO at Worldweb.net.

"People need to be shown what this is and what [this kind of content management] can do for them -- and XML is key to all of it," commented Gartner's Knox, adding that she believes Worldweb.net is "probably at the leading edge of what will be a more general trend in technology."

Aimed at companies with large, dynamic Web sites, Expressroom is designed to allow users to manage their content through a graphical interface and make changes that will be simultaneously enacted on the Web site.

Because content in the system is being manipulated in XML, it can be transformed on the fly to match display and content restrictions of the access device, including wireless devices via WML (Wireless Markup Language), according to the company.

"We don't call this Web content management anymore, because the Web is just one delivery mode for us," Loew said. "We don't know what devices we're going to be delivering content to in one year, five years, 10 years, so we wanted to set up the person interacting with this system such that they could make the decisions up front."

Expressroom I/0, available at the end of the second quarter, follows a subscription pricing model based on number of users and supported sites.

Average cost will be in the region of $4,000 to $15,000 per month, Worldweb.net's Loew said.

Akamai Technologies Inc., in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is at www.akamai.com. F5 Networks Inc., in Seattle, is at www.f5.com. World web.net, in Alexandria, Virginia, is at www.worldweb.net.

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