Oversi’s Internet – neutral and democratic

Shorter download times, better quality of service, less screaming at service reps and fewer headaches!

Tolub 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Tolub 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
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 their computers.
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 downloads.
Our OverCache system helps ISPs and broadband companies relieve traffic issues, without requiring expensive upgrades of equipment.”
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.
While Oversi 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.
The 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.
“The speed 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.
But 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.