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Local Heroes: Solutions for LAN- and WAN-based Streaming (Part 2)

Last week, we examined solutions from Certeon, Kontiki, and Network Appliance. This week, we take a closer look at each of their strengths, and point you towards the issues you need to be aware of when looking for a provider.

What Do You Serve (and How)?
All three systems can serve any kind of static content, including Real, QuickTime, and Windows Media files, though the most frequently published content is usually rich media, application executables, or large documents. Kontiki has a slight usability disadvantage in this regard, since both other systems can simply duplicate entire Web sites out at each remote location. With Kontiki, you either have to publish the file manually in the system or create a link to your content management system to publish the file.

Note the emphasis on static content. If your content is interactive, like a presentation that displays slideshows at certain times, or in response to user clicks, you’ll probably have to convert it into some type of static form to work with Kontiki. It should work with Certeon, which has a server component at each Media Mall, and with Network Appliance, which can relay server requests back to the origin server, but if you’re serving lots of interactive content, confirming interoperability should be a key issue.

To enable the distribution of output from Microsoft Producer for PowerPoint, note that Kontiki has a plug-in that packages Producer output for delivery over the Kontiki system. In addition, note that Certeon has a specific module that accelerates collaboration using Microsoft’s SharePoint services. Obviously, Kontiki provides no value here, and it’s unlikely that Network Appliance would either.

Also, the base versions of Kontiki and Certeon work only with content specifically published to the remote LAN or end user. In contrast, Network Appliance devices can cache all types of content coming in through the Internet, so if 200 employees want to see ESPN’s video of Lance Armstrong winning the Tour de France (keep your fingers crossed), that video will be served locally to preserve Internet bandwidth. Note that Certeon has an optional module, called Fusion ($4,000/MediaMall location), that can serve as a general-purpose reactive cache, as well.

Who Do You Serve?
The next issue is the type of user location that each system can serve. Both Certeon and Network Appliance can only accelerate transmissions to viewers on the LAN while the user is connected to the LAN. In contrast, Kontiki can serve any viewer with an Internet connection, and can download files for offline viewing. Interestingly, the system stores viewing information even when offline, updating the reporting module once the viewer comes back online.

This raises an interesting point about system scalability: With a per LAN cost of $10,000, installing a NetCache appliance at every branch office, no matter how small, can be costly. If you have a Windows 2003 Server at the location, you can install Certeon for $2,000 or less, depending on the number of offices, which allows customers like Caterpillar to install Certeon’s MediaMall at small branch offices and even at some dealer locations.

Kontiki, of course, is the most scalable and flexible, serving any user no matter how they connect, and providing content they can view even when they’re not connected. This can be a significant advantage when employees frequently travel but still need to receive rich content while on the road.

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