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Alteon raises stakes for faster networks

The network equipment maker is upping the ante in the highly competitive market for technology that speeds the delivery of Internet content to Net surfers.

Network equipment maker Alteon WebSystems is upping the ante in the emerging, but highly competitive, market for technology that speeds the delivery of Internet content to Web surfers.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company next week plans to announce two new networking devices that will help Web sites, Internet service providers (ISPs), and Web hosting companies manage network traffic, allowing them to ship information to Web surfers faster.

Alteon competes with Cisco Systems, F5 Networks, Foundry Networks and others in the high-growth market for Web switches. The devices ease traffic congestion by distributing Net traffic evenly among servers on a network, so none of the servers is bogged down with work.

The Web switch market has been attracting more attention from Wall Street analysts and investors since Cisco recently acquired Web switch maker ArrowPoint Communications for nearly $6 billion.

The Internet Research Group predicts the market for the equipment will grow from $260 million in revenue in 1999 to $828 million by 2002.

Jupiter Communications analyst Peter Christy said Alteon's two new products will help the company compete against its rivals.

"They're taking a big step because their products can do more complicated tasks now," Christy said. "They've added a lot of horsepower."

Alteon's two forthcoming Web-speeding products serve as add-on devices to the company's existing Web switch. The first device, called the SSL Accelerator, has a built-in processor for scanning and decoding encrypted Web requests or messages entering an e-commerce Web site.

With the add-on product reading and decoding Web requests, the processor in Alteon's Web switch can handle more Web transactions, said Atul Bhatnagar, Alteon's vice president of advanced products. If a Web surfer's Internet connection goes down during a purchase, the add-on device will remember the information when the surfer reconnects to the Web site, he said.

Alteon joins Intel and F5 in offering such an add-on device in its product family, Christy said.

Alteon's second new device, called the Akamaizer, will make it faster and simpler for Web sites and service providers to use Akamai Technologies' Web traffic management service, Bhatnagar said. Alteon and Akamai recently announced an alliance to jointly build and sell Web-speeding products.

Akamai sells software and services to speed Web content delivery by hosting small pieces of Web sites, such as Yahoo or, on different machines throughout the world. When a Web surfer wants information hosted on Akamai's network, the content is downloaded from a machine that is physically close to the surfer's computer.

Previously, Web sites or service providers using Akamai's service needed to manually tweak their Web site information, so it could be hosted on Akamai's network. But Alteon's new Akamaizer automatically modifies the Web content so it's compatible and can run on Akamai's network, Bhatnagar said.

Both new Alteon products are expected to ship in September.

Alteon ranks second in the Web switch market with 20 percent market share, according to a recent study by the Dell'Oro Group.

In a market that reached $106 million in revenue in the first quarter of 2000, older technology from Cisco, called the Local Director, ranks first with 30 percent market share. F5 ranks third with 17 percent, and Foundry is fourth with 10 percent. ArrowPoint, acquired by Cisco, was fifth with 9 percent.