Start-up leverages P-to-P to deliver video

Delivering high-quality video across the Internet can be a tough proposition because of bandwidth constraints and video-degrading latency. One way to improve the delivery is to move the video source closer to the end user, eliminating the number of hops a video stream must make along its path.

This week, start-up Jibe Inc. announced it is taking the content delivery model one step further, combining it with technology similar to that used by the maligned file sharing application Kazaa from Kazaa BV. In a traditional content delivery network, hardware-based edge serves are deployed in service provider points of presence around the globe. Jibe's EdgeBurst Delivery System instead harnesses the power of each viewer's PC to help distribute video-on-demand content deeper into the network.

When a request is made watch a video, Jibe redirects the request to the nearest caches that have the content and begins a parallel download from multiple sources. Pieces of the file are delivered from multiple PCs simultaneously, instead of an entire file being served from one central server. EdgeBurst used a progressive download system, meaning users can start watching before the entire file is downloaded.

This model saves the content provider bandwidth, because every viewer is not downloading from the origin servers. The more people that watch a particular clip, the more potential sources for downloading.

However, unlike Kazaa, where users can post and share their own content, EdgeBurst is a "gated community," according to Neal Ater, CEO of Jibe.

"We let the content provider control the content. A user can't just join; they have to be added to the service," Ater says. "The content originator controls who gets it and who can serve it."

Jibe is targeting the entertainment industry and corporations looking to deliver video more efficiently. In a corporate setting, a 15-minute training video can have file sizes upwards of 100M bytes. If multiple users try to watch the same video from the same source, the server's network connection can quickly become saturated.

A corporate customer would install the EdgeBurst administration server somewhere on the company LAN as well as small software clients on each PC. Jibe integrates with the Windows Media, QuickTime and Real players. The amount of outgoing bandwidth and processor utilization is tunable by the system administrator.

"When the end user requests a video, our software contacts an administration server to see who has the content stored locally," Ater explains. "If 30 people have the same file, we look at the 10 users that are closest and it narrow down to the optimum peers."

Ater says the system will adjust on the fly if a node becomes overloaded or goes offline altogether.

The goal is to provide quicker download times for users and allow the content provider to offer higher-quality video, which usually means bigger file sizes. "Obviously, the first person to request a given piece of content will have slower response time then subsequent users, because they're the first one to request it so there is only one system to download from," Ater says.

EdgeBurst is currently available with an average deployment price around US$100,000.

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