Nortel targets personalized content SPs

Brampton, Ont.-based Nortel Networks Ltd. launched a suite of new products under its Personal Internet initiative at the end of January with the goal of enabling companies to create end-to-end personalized content delivery services.

Nortel’s Personal Internet solutions include new and existing content delivery networking technology at the subscriber edge and content, or data-centre, edge. Aside from products and technologies developed through Alteon WebSystems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., and Shasta Networks Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., both of which have been acquired by Nortel since May 1999, some of the services available through Nortel’s Personal Internet initiative include personal firewalls and “walled garden” arrangements that some ISPs implement.

On the subscriber side, the Shasta walled garden technology is used by some free Internet-based ISPs to restrict users to certain Web sites (owned, of course, by advertisers and sponsors) within the first so many minutes of connecting to the ISP. As an example, the ISP’s users might only be able to access and for the first 15 minutes after logging in. Using the same technology, ISPs can restrict access to adult sites depending on the age of the user currently signed in.

Coming at content delivery from the data centre side, Alteon’s Web switches perform server load-balancing functions to find the most appropriate server in a server farm to direct incoming requests to. For example, if there is a server optimized for MPEG movies, surfers wanting to access on-line videos are best directed to the MPEG server than to any old server in the server farm. Similarly, a Web switch could determine the geographic location of a user and direct them to the server nearest to them.

“What we’re doing is we’re providing a comprehensive architecture to give a seamless end-to-end content delivery architecture,” said Ken Petruzzo, a product marketing spokesperson for Nortel.

By integrating Shasta and Alteon technologies, Nortel is trying to touch on every different sector of content distribution architecture, including subscriber management, personal content portals and load-balancing Web switching, Petruzzo said. The technologies allow for the ability to distribute content closer to subscribers based upon the physical location of the subscriber, not on the location of their DNS server, he said.

“So we’ll distribute it closer to them, and what that means, obviously, is the ability for content providers and service providers to work together to provide seamless distribution. So now you can offer fuller and richer media types. So it opens the door for these different types of content to be delivered to the subscriber,” Petruzzo said.

Why has Nortel just launched its Personal Internet initiative products? According to Petruzzo, it was the acquisitions of Alteon in October 2000 and Shasta in May 1999 that added the components necessary to fill out the content distribution architecture product portfolio. Future product releases are planned for later this year.

According to Mark Quigley, associate director of research at Brockville, Ont.-based The Yankee Group in Canada, there is an increasing demand by service providers for content distribution products.

“There are significant pricing pressures on that access side. Margins do get slim. It becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish one carrier from another on many occasions, and by doing this, by making these kinds of offerings, you are increasing that competitive advantage,” Quigley said. “Helping one competitor to distinguish itself from another…becomes greatly important going forward. It also gives them the ability to charge for that value add.”

While other major vendors, such as Cisco Systems Inc., have released products in the content distribution space, this is the first time the products have been pushed to the service provider side of things, he said.