By Rachel Chalmers Digital Island Inc has announced what it describes as geographic intelligence features for the company’s e-Network services. Its patent-pending TraceWare technology is designed to give web-based marketers and salespeople the ability to target content to their customers according to their geography. TraceWare is an internet atlas that detects, reportedly with 96% accuracy, […]
By Rachel Chalmers
Digital Island Inc has announced what it describes as geographic intelligence features for the company’s e-Network services. Its patent-pending TraceWare technology is designed to give web-based marketers and salespeople the ability to target content to their customers according to their geography. TraceWare is an internet atlas that detects, reportedly with 96% accuracy, what country an end user is in. The software has been integrated with Digital Island’s proprietary fraud-detection system for digital music, video and software sales. It also handles currency and tax conversion.
Digital Island exemplifies an emerging class of service- guaranteed network providers. Its private network has been live for three years. Founded in Hawaii (hence the name), the company is now headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in Geneva, Switzerland and around the Pacific Rim. Headcount is approaching 300 employees. The company’s Neil Henry identifies Exodus Communications and AboveNet as its chief rivals in the application hosting space, UUNet and IBM Global Services as the principal threats among the backbone providers and Akamai and Sandpiper as its rivals among the pure plays on caching and content distribution. It is Digital Island’s boast, however, that it alone provides all three services: access, application hosting and premium content delivery.
We see it as a triangle, Henry explains, there’s a need for a network, preferably a smart network, and we’ve taken some pains to build that. TraceWare’s geographical intelligence is just one example of what makes Digital Island’s network smart, he says. When you build a network that is parallel to the public internet, and you have 30 or 32 insertion points, you need to have a way to prevent a pristine, under-subscribed network from becoming a public network like, say, Sprint’s, he explains. The company achieves this end by the use of proprietary routing protocols at the edge of its networks to make the seams between private and public networks as seamless as possible, says Henry. One advantage of this is that Digital Island’s network engineers can understand in real-time the country of origin for any packet. Hence, TraceWare. As Henry puts it: What we’ve done is expand that from network layer to a more general API that any e-commerce application can use.
Just how the service will be used varies across industries and applications. Early TraceWare customers are using it to serve what I call country-specific content, says Henry. This category includes ad banners or more sophisticated advertising targeted at more than one country market – so that a financial institution could promote UK money products in the UK, French franc products in France and so forth. Another reason customers may use TraceWare is so as to be seen to obey national laws. A large number of regulatory issues are not manageable on the web today, Henry argues. In Italy, for example, every price quoted in Italian lire has to be matched with an equivalent in Euros. That’s not true elsewhere in the EU, creating hassles for webmasters – unless they are using the Digital Island service.
The physical network, the hosting centers and the caches force Digital Island to compete in three distinct markets, but they also create synergies for clients, Henry maintains. Our approach is to make these three capabilities inseparable, he says, in the future, we believe an outsourced data relationship will require all three. He wonders whether the content delivery specialists are not in particular danger from such consolidation. On the Akamai side, we feel so strongly that caching is the way to eliminate the speed of light problem that we wouldn’t consider setting our caches adrift, he says, we want to look after them ourselves.
TraceWare now rolls out in two different forms. Any customer hosting with Digital Island can use the service. Besides that, TraceWare Developer Services extends the capability to the web- based systems integrators and independent software vendors Henry calls iBuilders – a very important channel for TraceWare. Pricing varies along a couple of parameters, but customers should expect to pay an average annual cost of $25,000 for the service.