Start-up preps Web optimization service

Internet infrastructure start-up Netli is working on a way to help companies speed delivery of Web content to their far-flung remote users and business partners.

The company will deliver a service that provides remote users subsecond access to centrally located corporate applications, such as a salesperson searching for order histories contained in a CRM application or a supplier tapping into a retailer's systems to monitor inventory levels.

While the company declined to comment, its Web site states the service won't require companies to buy hardware, modify Web pages or install server software. Netli says it will deliver the service via a distributed network of clustered servers. The service network is compatible with content delivery networks and can work alongside caches and server accelerators, Netli says.

Netli's service will differ from that of content delivery specialists, such as Akamai Technologies, which focus on speeding delivery of static content, Netli says. Its service will optimize static and dynamic content generated by databases, query responses and interactive application services. Response times for data generated on the fly and delivered over the Internet purportedly will rival those that locally hosted Web applications achieve.

Peter Christy, co-founder of NetsEdge Research Group, says there's a real need for tools to improve Internet performance. Users have grown accustomed to eight- to 11-second response times, he says.

Indeed, Keynote Systems in its Web Broker Trading Index tracks average response times for creating a standard stock-order transaction on selected brokerage Web sites. During a one-week period in August, the average was 9.25 seconds.

"The Internet itself - the routers and communication lines - aren't going to get better in a way that fixes performance any time soon," Christy says. "Clever system technology will be where the performance improvements come from, primarily."

As an example, Christy cites Akamai, which has shown that relatively simple system technology can make an enormous difference - nearly tenfold improvements in Web site performance, he says.

But whereas Akamai aims to solve the problems of high-volume, mass-access Web sites, Netli has a different objective in targeting the performance of business applications. Fewer people use these applications, but the users generally play an important role in a company's business, Christy says.

"Netli has a content delivery scheme that has some of the attributes of something like an Akamai system, but is intended to focus on data that's way down in the popularity ranks," Christy says.

One challenge Netli will face is in building customer confidence. "People don't trust service providers now, especially new start-up ones, because of the sort of collapse of the whole service business. So even if it's a good idea, it might be an uphill battle," Christy says.

Stanford University Ph.D.s Michael Kharitonov and Adam Grove, along with Alexei Tumarkin, a former professor at the Uni versity of California, Santa Barbara, founded the company in 2000. This trio, along with a fourth party, filed a patent application in May that describes a method for network discovery using name servers. Netli secured $17.9 million in funding this spring, according to the MoneyTree Survey compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Venture Economics and National Venture Capital Association.

Before its second-quarter windfall, Netli said it had $3.2 million in funding. Investors backing Netli include Morgenthaler Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Leapfrog Ventures, Alta Partners and Nokia Venture Partners.

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