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Caching sped by new products, partnerships

The caching industry gets a triple shot of adrenaline with a flurry of product announcements and partnerships by new and established players.

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The caching industry got a triple shot of adrenaline today with a flurry of product announcements and partnerships by new and established players.

Caching pioneer Inktomi today announced version 3 of its Traffic Server caching product, which includes support for RealNetworks' streaming technology, bringing to fruition a project, launched with fanfare in August, that the two companies promised would improve the quality of streamed media content on the Web.

Caching is a technology that holds copies of online content closer to users to minimize the time and bandwidth that information consumes traversing the Internet.

With Traffic Server 3, Inktomi is embracing Sandpiper Networks' Footprint product, technology launched last year to expand on the caching idea by distributing content throughout established networks, such as those of large Internet service providers.

Footprint always has included a public domain caching product, but with today's rollout Sandpiper will include Traffic Server instead. Inktomi also will take a "substantial" investment in Sandpiper as part of the company's second round of financing. Other investors include America Online, which will deploy Sandpiper's technology throughout its network; Eagle New Media Investment; Hambrecht & Quist, through its Access Technology Partners fund; BancBoston Robertson Stephens affiliate Bayview Investors; lead investor Attractor Investment Management; Brentwood Venture Capital; Media Technology Ventures; and Mission Ventures.

Sandpiper raised $21.5 million with the current round.

Footprint employs some aspects of caching--the cache makes up about 20 percent of the product's code--and some principles of Web hosting. The product has two components: servers called "content distributors" and software called a "content migrator." The migrator sits at the Web publisher's site, connecting it to a network of distributors placed at points of presence at ISPs and elsewhere throughout the Internet.

When a Web surfer requests a file from a site that employs Footprint, the migrator reroutes that request to the distributor that will provide the fastest available service based on both geographical distance between distributor and client and network congestion.

Sandpiper borrows from the Web hosting model by giving sites more control over their content than caching usually provides. Traditional Web caching can prevent sites from immediately updating content or from getting detailed information about how users are accessing it. Footprint provides management tools to achieve both of these tasks.

Other additions to Traffic Server with version 3 include the following:

• Content distribution software from WebSpective, which synchronizes updates on servers and caches.

• Integration with a high-bandwidth software- and content-delivery platform from Arepa that lets end users employ software over the Net without downloading bulky multimedia or application software.

• Software from Spyglass and Network Computing for accessing Web content from smaller Web access devices like set-top boxes and cell phones.

• Support for WebSense, Web filtering and traffic management software from NetPartners and Internet Solutions.

In addition, Network Appliance is readying its own new version of its network caching product. NetCache 3.4 incorporates SmartFilter, technology from Secure Computing that lets firms filter out certain sites at the network level. It also lets organizations monitor how much time and bandwidth is being used to view certain sites. Filtering solutions typically have been implemented at the level of the browser.

Separately, telecom equipment giant Lucent Technologies entered the caching fray, debuting a caching appliance based on new IPWorx technology and a licensing agreement with ArrowPoint Communications so it can deliver a caching-aware switching device.

Targeted at ISPs, the new hardware and software will be available in July, according to Lucent executives.

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