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BitGravity Weighs In on HD Delivery

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TelcoTV News Analysis
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BitGravity Inc. officially launched its content delivery network (CDN) today in a challenge to Akamai Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: AKAM), Limelight Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: LLNW), and others in the market for high-definition Internet video delivery. (See BitGravity Launches CDN.)

The Burlingame, Calif., company was founded in January 2006 and has since been adding to its roster of about 50 brand-name customers. (See BitGravity Counts on HD.)

Early customers include Sling Media Inc. , Revision3, and PumpAudio. BitGravity CEO Perry Wu also claims that his company snagged YouTube Inc. 's content delivery business shortly before it was taken mostly in-house by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG).

Wu says his company offers a higher level of performance than other CDNs, especially for the download of high-definition video content.

Wu claims BitGravity's interactions between the content and the client have less "chatter" than other CDNs. While Akamai and Limelight's routing algorithms cause the end user to take several hops to determine the best server from which to download content, BitGravity's BitCast technology "strips out as much overhead as possible," he says.

The end result is an advantage in time to download the first packet, which BitGravity claims happens four times faster than on competing CDNs, and subsequent improvements in delivery thereafter.

The company achieved this by building its BitCast technology from the ground up and deploying custom hardware in data centers throughout the globe.

While other CDNs deploy proprietary routing software on commercial, off-the-shelf servers, BitGravity says its hardware is custom-made. While each server may cost more than its competitors', the company contends it makes up for the cost through better performance per server.

"What takes other companies three racks to do, we do in half a rack," Wu says.

The BitCast technology was developed by CTO Barrett Lyon, the 28-year old Wunderkind who had previously founded Prolexic Technologies Inc. , a hosting service that proxies client Websites, DNS, and email servers to protect them from distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks. He also founded the Opte Project, which models, analyzes, and creates visual representations of the Internet.

While he was a general partner at VC firm ComVentures , Wu met Lyon when that firm tried to buy Prolexic. After six months of interacting, Wu says, he left ComVentures to start a new company focused on content delivery.

"I saw the right opportunity," Wu says. "There was no new technology in the market, so the first person I called was Barrett."

BitGravity also benefits from a strategic partnership with an unnamed Tier 1 backbone provider, which provides the company with transport services and has helped it grow by providing rack space that might otherwise not be available.

Wu says that makes a difference, both in the company's ability to expand and in the time it takes to deliver content. "We're using all Tier 1 carrier-grade traffic, while some of our competitors are using Tier 3."

Ultimately, Wu says, BitGravity's business isn't just about making a buck off of content delivery, but about enabling new business models to businesses and a more immersive experience to end users.

"We're coming to market with a really different value proposition," he says. "Plain old video will only get you so far. We're going to media companies and allowing them to differentiate their business."

— Ryan Lawler, Reporter, Light Reading

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