FastForward System Boosts Delivery Over Net

SAN FRANCISCO (03/24/2000) - FastForward Networks looks to cure the ills of Internet broadcasting with the Media Distribution Network (MDN) it will unveil this week. The company hopes to do for streaming media what Akamai is doing for page delivery: pushing the source of the content closer to the recipient.

"We want to convert the Internet into a broadcast network," says Eric Wolford, vice president of product marketing and business development at FastForward.

"We're addressing the problems with the distribution and management of streaming media."

FastForward wants to build an overlay net by placing software-based servers in as many collocation points as possible.

The servers, known as Media Bridges, sit on a Solaris or Linux box and form the core of FastForward's MDN. Content can be injected into the network at multiple points to ensure there is no single point of failure. If one server goes down, traffic can be automatically rerouted to the next best path through the network. FastForward uses a "pull" approach, so only those segments of the network that want to see a broadcast get it, rather than flooding the whole network with a broadcast.

"These guys are taking a rigorous network approach and applying it to streaming media, something which has been lacking," says Alex Benik, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston. "Its almost like they're setting up a multicast-enabled virtual private network."

FastForward also offers Media Bridge Adapters that connect RealNetworks' RealServer G2, Microsoft's Windows Media Services and Apple QuickTime servers to a media bridge, allowing a single stream to be sent across the MDN.

The last piece of the FastForward puzzle is Broadcast Manager, a Web-based interface for monitoring traffic on the MDN and adjusting quality-of-service levels for each broadcast. Broadcasters can dedicate certain percentages of bandwidth to specific streams and adjust according to demand.

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