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Low-bandwidth push is on

Facing predictions that the push technology market is headed for a shakeout, companies are addressing bandwidth concerns.

Facing predictions that the push technology market is headed for a shakeout, companies are searching for ways to differentiate themselves by addressing concerns over bandwidth.

A rising number of firms are pitching the bandwidth-saving features of their products to distinguish them from other more network-hungry technologies. Today, Tibco, which wants to make its bandwidth-friendly push software a de facto standard, announced partnerships with a number of leading high-tech companies. They include IBM, 3Com, and Lanacom.

Another push firm, BackWeb, also hitched itself to the Tibco bandwagon, saying that it would offer new versions of its BackWeb client and server by August that support its middleware software, "The Information Bus."

Bandwidth conservation is becoming an important issue for push technology companies because most solutions, such as PointCast, chew up more network resources than individuals who manually search for Web sites. Although push technology is touted as a means of automatically broadcasting information over the Net to user desktops, the PointCast client actually pulls information down from the Internet by checking in with a server for regular updates.

That method is effective for getting information to users on a timely basis, but it also tie up corporate networks by constantly seeking replies from a server. Earlier this month, market research firm Optimal Networks released a study indicating that almost a fifth of corporate network traffic stems from push technologies, even though it is used by only 12 percent of users.

Making push technology more bandwidth-friendly could be an important step in expanding the audience for Internet broadcasts. Tibco aims to do precisely that by getting a significant portion of the router and applications companies to support its technology.

Tibco software employs something called "publish-subscribe multicasting," a transmission scheme that can reduce network traffic by 50 percent, according to the company. Instead of clogging a network with a separate request and reply for information, servers simply broadcast new information to a client as soon as it is available, eliminating the need for the client to check in with a server constantly.

Tibco also says that its data broadcasts are more timely than most push solutions. Reuters Holdings, which owns Tibco, honed its version of the technology in the financial services industry, where it has been used to deliver real-time information for years.

Corporate networks will be the first to experience the benefits of Tibco's software. Routers need to activate the technology for it to work, and companies are likely to make that move before Internet service providers do.

According to Mikki Nasch, director of business development at BackWeb, that additional timeliness is what persuaded the company to license the technology for the BackWeb client and server. Today, BackWeb also announced a Macintosh version of its client.

BackWeb is among the smaller push companies that are trying to develop a following among corporations. Another company, Wayfarer Communications, today tried to do the same by announcing a new reseller program that could help boost sales for its product.