As Internet services have evolved, the race to differentiate between content providers and content farmers has blurred the user’s understanding of much of what we read and believe. The advent of cloud services makes it even more formidable, since now it is much simpler to re-publish others content for the sole purpose of leveraging search results and growing audience.
Yet content has morphed into various forms, from simple email to text, to applications and games and video entertainment, to advanced engineering and sophisticated medical technologies that are the changing the way the world works. Video and multimedia are naturally driving all applications and all content. Yet we are still burdened by political chicanery and powerful corporations that destroy the new businesses trying to find a level playing field, stagnate investment and drag us back atavistically to the days when a handful of rubes got to decide on what you are able to view vis-à-vis your connection.
After living through the 1980’s in telecom, it is unconscionable that the monopolies of the 1950’s and 1960’s are still getting to decide on who plays in their publicly built sandboxes. Companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, along with others, have all gotten over on the politicians, and consumers, and hold unfair advantages to cripple growth, stymy business and place American investors in unfair positions as they attempt to build services. No capitalist, free market, enterprise can compete with government interference, and this state of affairs now tells some of us that we will lose to markets that support a level playing field and fair competition.
Having said all of that, what do we see from those businesses that are working to compete in the content delivery space? Conveniently, these exact financial markets have been pilloried by the recent market conditions and are only now peeking their heads out to talk about their last quarter’s earnings and what is in store for the future. So, If you’re one of those guys who has bet your retirement, or some of it, on Internet companies that make content richer and more accessible to the world, let’s have a chat, won’t you, on which players are making the cut.
The players have defined themselves using some of the following definitions from the WIKI:
A content delivery network or content distribution network (CDN) is a system of computers containing copies of data placed at various nodes of a network. When properly designed and implemented, a CDN can improve access to the data it caches by increasing access bandwidth and redundancy and reducing access latency. Data content types often cached in CDNs include web objects, downloadable objects (media files, software, documents), applications, live streaming media, and database queries.
An application delivery controller (ADC) is a network device in the datacenter that helps perform common tasks done by web sites in an effort to remove load from the web servers themselves. Many also provide load balancing. They usually sit between the firewall/router and the web farm. The ADC is in many cases described as the next generation load balancer. They tend to offer more advanced features such as content manipulation, advanced routing strategies as well as highly configurable server health monitoring. ADCs tend to offer features like compression, cache, connection multiplexing, application layer security, SSL offload, content switching combined with basic server load balancing.
Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) (also called complete packet inspection and Information eXtraction – IX –) is a form of computer network packet filtering that examines the data part (and possibly also the header) of a packet as it passes an inspection point, searching for protocol non-compliance, viruses, spam, intrusions or predefined criteria to decide if the packet can pass or if it needs to be routed to a different destination, or for the purpose of collecting statistical information. There are multiple headers for IP packets, network equipment only needs to use the first of these (the IP header) for normal operation, but use of the second header (TCP, UDP etc.) is normally considered to be shallow packet inspection (usually called Stateful Packet Inspection) despite this definition.
Deep Packet Inspection (and filtering) enables advanced network management, user service, and security functions as well as internet data mining, eavesdropping, and censorship. Although DPI technology has been used for Internet management for many years, some advocates of net neutrality fear that the technology can be used anti-competitively or to reduce the openness of the Internet.
Our favorite, of all the hot companies busting it out of the gates, is F5. We like it because they provide a venue for the voices building and protecting networks. So we visited their blog over at http://devcentral.f5.com/weblogs/rhaynes/archive/2011/10/13/staying-positive.aspx#2544700 and were lucky to latch onto Robert Haynes, Senior Field Systems Engineer. We posted our naïve question to see if we can get some ideas on what the guys doing the work, talking to network guys who visit our sites, had to say on some things. Hopefully, our audience will participate and provide much smarter questions than we can come up with for these smart folks. Here is a primer he provided to explain the present.
“Things like TCP optimization, application firewalling, load balancing, event based traffic management, server offload etc. are not going to be offered by operating systems or client-server applications. These services are not networking, not applications they are application services delivered in the network.”
|Business Ethernet: The Business Connectivity of Choice|
Wall Street’s perennial loser in networking market share, and share price, is of course Cisco which was the source of the gain for F5 in the area of ADC and here is what Denise Dubie, Network World, said back in 2005 , “Cisco is unable to leverage its dominance in enterprise networking to pull away from F5 Networks because of its dependence on out-of-date Layer 4 to Layer 7 switches.” And here is what the financial world’s savvy Mark Sue said last year, “Data center consolidation, virtualization and cloud computing trends are still in the early stages and F5’s R&D investment is paying off as evidenced by the company’s market share gains. More new products are in the works which may enable the company to maintain its leadership position.”
I’m not sure what John Chambers has said about his world view of how applications ought to be sorted across the network, but it’s clear he prefers playing Nero again niggling over a decent dividend for the people who actually own the company, while he sits on a Midas fortune. While he can’t figure out how the user might benefit from competitive free market interaction, Cisco is sitting on $45 billion in cash. I suspect, there might be a larger outcry from people who own stocks, some 60% of America in some fashion, if they were told how it is any company can hold onto that much cash today. Can we say “Investors Occupy WS?” Now don’t get me wrong, I favor the complete elimination of all corporate taxes, and tax codes along with it. Clearly we waste trillions in tax collection alone. And I surely don’t trust one single politician not to play the system. But just imagine how many jobs we’d see if these companies had to get off their duffs and spend that money or give it back to investors. But that’s another story I guess.
Other companies we are watching to see how their services evolve, and how investments and regulations will fuel growth are Akamai, the CDN leader now being threatened, or possibly acquired, by none other than AT&T, and Procera Networks, a little company in the DPI space that may be the catalyst for eavesdropping in on campuses around the world to see what they are running. Keep us posted and share your experiences or give us your pet blogger so we can share your thoughts on how things will shake out.