It will be the first network caching solution for streaming media, according to the companies.
Inktomi--popularly known for its search engine technology that powers major search engines including Yahoo's--makes a network caching product called Traffic Server for large Internet access providers including America Online, Digex, and @Home.
Like a browser cache, but on a much larger scale, network caching lets access providers save frequently requested Web pages, or parts of Web pages, to preserve bandwidth and reduce network congestion.
The benefits of caching streaming media are twofold, according to Inktomi and Real Networks. In the first place, streaming files are considerably larger than the average file, so caching them provides a big opportunity for reducing network congestion.
In addition, streaming media are especially vulnerable to packet loss and delay, which cause video to look jittery and audio to become polluted. By reducing the time and distance spent traveling over the Internet, caching will result in cleaner sound and pictures.
Improving the speed and quality of streaming media will be crucial to its success in challenging traditional offline media, according to analysts.
"If Inktomi and RealNetworks working in concert can make the delivery of streaming media faster and easier for mainstream consumers, it could have a big impact," said Jupiter Communications analyst Patrick Keane. He noted that 78 percent of consumers are expected to continue accessing the Internet on traditional dial-up modems for the next four years, leaving high-speed access such as via cable modems in the margins.
The relationship between Inktomi and RealNetworks announced today will ultimately result in a version of Traffic Server that will incorporate RealNetworks' streaming audio and video technology for on-demand files--live files cannot be cached. That new version of Traffic Server will be released later this year.