Cambridge-based CacheLogic is to launch a line of servers designed to reduce the growing workload being generated by internet file-swapping networks such as Gnutella and FastTrack.
Aimed squarely at consumer ISPs which, CacheLogic says, are now devoting as much as 70% of their bandwidth to this kind of peer-to-peer traffic, the Cachepliance 2000 and Cachepliance 4000 are high-performance servers, designed to sit on the edge of a network where they cache and relay P-to-P traffic more efficiently.
Gnutella and FastTrack are the P-to-P networks used by most popular file-sharing applications, including KaZaA, Morpheus and Limewire.
A nightmare for network managers
The decentralised nature of these networks can make them a nightmare for network managers, said CacheLogic chief technology officer Andrew Parker.
When a Gnutella client swaps a file, it does not take into account whether its peer is in the same county or the same continent. The end result is that P-to-P traffic often travels a greater distance on the network than it needs to. "The bandwidth usage is pretty high," he added.
The Cachepliance "sits on the border between the ISP network and the Internet and effectively restructures the P-to-P network to make it more sympathetic to the underlying physical network", Parker said.
"It's a heck of a lot of storage with some routing functionality," said IDC analyst Max Flisi, adding that suppliers are only just now starting launch these kinds of servers.
The Cachepliance 2000 ships with 700Gbytes of SCSI storage. The Cachepliance 4000 contains 1.45Tbytes.
Telewest Communications will begin testing the Cachepliance in a lab trial over the next few months.
The fact that the Cachepliance actually caches P-to-P files makes it different from other offerings, such as Sandvine's PPE 8200, said Telewest internet technical consultant Fergal Butler, but the fact that ISPs would be caching music or video files on their own equipment also raises some legal questions.
"I guess we're concerned about the legality in the UK of these potential solutions," Butler said, adding that his team would be consulting Telewest's legal department, and, if given the green light, he hoped to try the Cachepliance on the company's live network.
IDC's Max Flisi said he doubted the legal questions will stop the Cachepliance from being used. "I don't think they'll run into that kind of a problem. They're not really endorsing P-to-P traffic."
Both Cachepliance machines, which are available immediately, run dual Xeon processors, with 2Gbytes of memory and a custom Linux distribution with a "heavily modified" Linux 2.4 kernel.
The Cachepliance 2000 is designed to support 30,000 users, and costs £30,000. The Cachepliance 4000 costs £50,000 and is designed for 50,000 users. Support for either system costs £10,000 a year.