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Net-speeding firm gets $50 million jump start

Edgix, which has been quietly building its own Net-speeding technology, plans to unveil its service in conjunction with a $50 million round of funding and a few blue chip customers.

Akamai Technologies and its competitors have gained a new well-funded rival with a fresh take on the market.

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Funding round gives Edgix an edge
Rangnath Salgame, president/CEO, Edgix
Edgix, a content-delivery company that has been quietly building its own Net-speeding technology for more than a year, plans to unveil its service Tuesday in conjunction with a new $50 million round of funding and a few blue chip customers.

Like Akamai, Digital Island, Speedera and others, Edgix is betting that there is money to be made in boosting the speed of Web downloads by avoiding network traffic jams. But where others have sold their services to content companies like Yahoo or CNN, Edgix is focusing on Internet service providers as customers.

Meta Group says Edgix has found a unique content delivery strategy that complements rather than competes with content delivery leaders such as Akamai and Digital Island.

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That's been enough to attract a few big-name clients, including Europe's Chello Broadband. Analysts say it's likely to draw the attention of U.S. ISPs looking to distinguish themselves from rivals, many of which already have Akamai or rivals' distribution systems inside their networks.

"What they're offering is a more focused alternative," said Courtney Monroe, an analyst with IDC. "You know what you're getting up front if you're a service provider."

The content-delivery market has exploded in the year since Akamai hit the scene, spawning a host of companies and, more recently, a series of big-name alliances that are pushing competing standardization efforts. This skirmishing could work against a new company like Edgix, which is entering a market that has already advanced well beyond its first stages.

But while Edgix performs much the same functions as the others, its business model and clientele are different--a fact it hopes will help it jump-start its entry into the market without treading on the market leaders' toes.

Most content-distribution companies offer a simple proposition to Web site operators: Sign up, and the content-distribution company will spread much of the site's content to an array of servers located as physically close as possible to individual Web surfers.

Edgix works along much the same principles, but with its service geared much more toward the needs of ISPs.

The service providers gain some value from hosting Akamai servers, because it makes their customers' downloads faster for a few sites and can substantially cut bandwidth costs.

But Edgix allows the ISPs to focus this Net-speeding effect on the content most popular with their own customers.

The company's software determines which Web sites are the most popular in a given geographic area and then caches much of that in local servers. The data is sent to the ISP's caches via a third-party satellite connection, avoiding network snarls as much as possible.

"The trick is figuring out how to bridge the gap between content and eyeballs," said Abhi Chaki, the company's vice president of business development. "The market that has been very underserved here has been the access side. These are the guys with the eyeballs."

The model has drawn enough attention to justify a second financing round of $50 million, led by Chase Capital Partners.

Executives say they're not getting involved in any of the content-distribution alliances that have developed around Cisco Systems and Inktomi but will watch these movements develop as the market evolves.

"We're open to exploring the different alliances that have cropped up," Chaki said. "But we want to wait and see what happens in the market."