Exodus deal blurs hosting, content delivery line

Reflecting a shift in the breadth of services available via traditional Web hosting, managed services and hosting provider Exodus Communications Inc. last week dove further into the content delivery business.

Exodus inked a deal with Novell Inc.'s new content management subsidiary Volera to offer a managed server-side content acceleration service. The move coincided last week with a host of other content delivery bids by vendors at the Demo 2001 show in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Exodus deal brings to its customers Volera Inc.'s Content Exchange service, which speeds content delivery by serving it directly from caches and by dynamically encoding content for delivery via CDNs (content delivery networks).

The addition of content speeding services to Internet hosting is a trend the industry will likely see more of down the road, according to David Willis, program director at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut.

"Right now [the industry] is bifurcated. You do distributed hosting to get availability, then you do content delivery for performance," Willis said. The trend of consolidation will bring more of a "combined story," in which CDN services are "just another form of distributed hosting," according to Willis.

Exodus has already started down this path, adding the alliance with Volera to an existing relationship with CDN provider Mirror Image Internet. As part of Exodus' three-tier content distribution strategy, these moves bring the company into competition with Akamai Technologies Inc. and other CDN service providers.

"Content distribution will be a key managed service that Exodus provides along with storage, security, network, and other services," said Scott Emo, director of product marketing at Exodus. "Looking into the future, I see content distribution as the dial tone on a telephone; people will just expect it to be there as part of any managed service."

Other vendors are getting on board. At Demo 2001, several smaller companies stepped up their content delivery efforts.

WebEver Inc., for example, introduced a new version of its Distributed Software Delivery system, which aims to enable service providers, data centers, and hosting companies to speed the delivery of content using existing infrastructure. SmartRoute, a component of the delivery system, determines which server in a network will deliver each page request the fastest. Page requests are treated independently in real time, which should amount to better service for end-users.

Meanwhile in New York, eMikolo Inc. unveiled an Internet appliance that uses caching and peer-to-peer technologies to boost content delivery for service providers and co-location centers, among others. And FineGround Networks, in Campbell, California announced the release of FineGround Condenser, server software that aims to speed the delivery of dynamic Web content and reduce bandwidth costs.

James Niccolai is an IDG News Service correspondent.

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