A startup called Arootz, based in Netanya, Israel, says it has devised a solution that greatly increases the Net's ability to deliver video without requiring substantial new infrastructure.
The approach takes advantage of two existing (and not very esoteric) technologies: a standard Internet feature known as multicasting, by which the same information can be sent simultaneously to many recipients using just one data stream; and off-the-shelf hard drives that can store vast amounts of data fast and cheap.
The combination of the two represents a radical new approach to using the Net. Here's how it works: In today's world, when a person sitting at a PC clicks a link to watch a video, a series of servers delivers the content from its source to the end user in what's essentially an individualized person-to-person channel. If 10,000 people in a city all want to watch Desperate Housewives, each one of them gets their own personal bandwidth-hogging data stream.
Imagine, instead, that by keeping track of basic patterns and preferences, an ISP could anticipate that those 10,000 viewers might want to watch Housewives in a predictable time window—say, within 24 hours after each episode was released. So rather than delivering 10,000 individual streams whenever the viewers choose to watch the show, the ISP can blast it simultaneously via multicasting (using far less bandwidth) to capacious hard drives in all 10,000 homes, and then the customers can watch the show at their leisure directly from an in-home media server. "With storage becoming so cheap, we are downloading video content to users' personal hard discs so that it is immediately available regardless of network conditions," says Noam Bardin, chief executive officer of Arootz.
Getting Rid of Usage Bottlenecks
It's a bit like attaching a TiVo personal video recorder to the PC of every Internet user. After all, a 1-terabyte drive that now sells for about $350 is expected to hit $100 by next year and should get even cheaper in the future. Taking advantage of slow periods such as the middle of the night, ISPs could multicast all sorts of content to customers—highlights of yesterday's football matches, the morning news, or the top 100 most watched YouTube clips. All of it would be sitting there ready for access in the morning without putting any further strain on the network.
"The delivery is in off-peak hours but usage is on-demand, so we avoid the bottleneck that is occurring over global networks," Bardin says.
This approach also is a boon to ISPs.
"Video significantly changes their business model since it demands a continuous stream, which makes shared bandwidth difficult," says Danny Saar, manager of the Internet & technology sector at BBDO Consulting in Tel Aviv. The high cost of adding additional capacity to meet demand has already led many providers to look for creative alternatives. Some are capping the amount of data that residential users get with their monthly plans, charging extra when the threshold is exceeded. Others are arbitrarily limiting speeds at peak hours.
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