Just as in real life, traffic on the information highway has gotten a bit
crowded of late.
Like on real highways, where more people are driving
bigger and fancier cars, more people are downloading and streaming larger and
more elaborate files – for example, movies and high-definition TV shows – to
The result? Just as in real life, you get stuck in
information-highway rush-hour stop-and-go traffic – literally, as the streaming
video you’re trying to watch stops for a few seconds while your connection waits
to download the next scene. At times, it seems as if you’re spending more time
watching the hands go around that little clock (or, for Mac users, watching that
little hypnotic rainbow circle) than you are watching the show! So what can you
do about it? Just as in real life, where you would write an angry letter to the
mayor or your local representatives, you get on the phone and start screaming at
your ISP’s hapless service rep – giving him/her, as well as yourself, a
headache. But there’s nothing to be done: Anyone can use the Internet any time
in any way they like, and if everyone decides they want to watch the most
bandwidth – consuming videos at the same time, slowing down quality of service
for everyone – well, that’s just the way it is.
Still a fan of “net
neutrality?” The term has gotten a bad rap of late, after revelations that
Google and US communications company Verizon were discussing “dividing the
Internet” – in essence, setting up a tier pay system, providing more resources
for customers who pay higher rates. While both companies (along with Comcast,
which beat the FCC on the issue earlier this year) were slammed in the
blogosphere for even hinting at the idea, it’s clear to regulators that
“something” must be done to reign in traffic.
Enter Israel’s Oversi
(oversi.com) with a possible solution.
“Internet traffic is growing
exponentially, and more video is on the way,” says company president and CEO
David Tolub. “Already, over 60 percent of Internet traffic is dedicated to video
Our OverCache system helps ISPs and broadband companies
relieve traffic issues, without requiring expensive upgrades of
While the system could be used to regulate traffic (i.e.,
providing different service tiers), that regulation only applies to video
streams and downloads, leaving the part of the Internet that “the people” really
need, such as the news, e-mail and information sites, alone.
has caching solutions for Web content, P2P downloads and streaming video, it is
the latter, thanks to sites such as YouTube and Hulu.com, that take up the
lion’s share of video traffic today. But just what is that traffic made up of?
Often, you have many people watching the same streaming video, either at the
same time or at different times. Regardless, everyone who wants to watch that
video downloads it to their computer or Internet-connected TV – so the same file
is getting downloaded hundreds, if not thousands, of times a day, clogging up
network traffic. And considering that most of the servers you need to access to
watch videos are far from home, those downloads have the makings of a major
Internet traffic jam for ISPs.
With Oversi’s OverCache platform, the file
gets downloaded once through the ISP’s network and is stored and distributed
from a server using OverCache. As with a cache server, the ISP lets users access
the file not from the faraway home server but from the local cache. Instead of
content being delivered repeatedly through the network, the content is passed
through the backbone only once and is stored in the cache. From then on, the
content is delivered from the cache, without clogging up the network.
result? Shorter download times, better quality of service (since there’s less
traffic, there’s less video skipping), less screaming at service reps and fewer
headaches! It sounds simple; after all, caching servers have been around for
awhile. But ensuring proper sequencing of large files containing video over long
distances at high speeds, as well as building a cache system that can reassure
the ever-paranoid content distributors that their movies and TV shows are safe
from illegal purloining, isn’t so simple.
And as one of the best
solutions around for video distribution (Oversi was one of four Israeli
companies in Red Herring’s 2010 Global Top 100), Tolub says the company’s
customers include “Internet companies around the world, including South America,
the US and many other locations.”
While he prefers not to give details
about specific partners and customers, Tolub says it’s easy to see just what
benefit a system like OverCache has for customers.
“Israelis who try to
download a locally popular American video from YouTube will see how smooth that
download is, as opposed to an obscure video with few views from a country like
Indonesia, which was unlikely to have been cached,” he says.
improvement ranges from between 40% and 70%, and sometimes much, much more,
depending on the file and the nature of the download.”
Oversi makes no
secret of the fact that it sees its platform as something ISPs could use to
regulate services for customers, depending on how much they are willing to pay.
So much for “net neutrality!” But isn’t video over the Internet really a
“luxury” for users? The “traditional” methods of consuming video content –
cable, satellite, broadcast TV, movies, DVDs, etc. – haven’t disappeared, at
least not yet. And most, if not all, of those methods cost money.
most people who watch video and movies online aren’t necessarily looking to
avoid paying; it’s more a matter of convenience (the rise of Netflix and Apple
Store TV downloads proves this, it would appear).
Oversi’s solution is
thus logical, and fair.
By regulating only video, Oversi’s platform
places the burden of payment on the folks who are “eating” over half the
available bandwidth, just to have some video fun. By reducing the bandwidth used
by video, Oversi’s platform is actually freeing up resources for the rest of the
Internet – the part where folks can read the online news, or community gadflies
can organize online campaigns for change.
Many of those who fear the loss
of net neutrality really fear the loss of online democracy – but with Oversi,
they have nothing to worry about.