Caching, a technology originally deployed by Internet service providers in the 1990s, is seeing renewed interest—but this time it’s broadband service providers that are deploying the technology, as an announcement expected today from Frontier Communications illustrates.
The idea of caching is to retain popular web content in a cache near the end user to eliminate the need to repeatedly send the same content over wide area connections. In the 1990s, ISPs began deploying caching technology to minimize their costs. Today broadband providers are installing it even closer to the end user to minimize their traffic, which has grown tremendously with the advent of over-the-top video.
Frontier plans to announce that it is using a suite of products from BTI Systems, including BTI’s WideCast caching solution. As Frontier Senior Vice President of Engineering and Technology Michael Golob explained in an interview, Frontier already has extensively deployed BTI’s packet optical networking equipment, which he said “scales down well” in rural markets, such as those the carrier acquired from Verizon.
In isolated markets where Frontier has to purchase circuits from other carriers for backhaul connectivity to Internet points of presence, the carrier also has deployed the WideCast offering, which is installed on BTI’s packet optical networking platform.
Golob pointed to the example of Moab, Utah–an isolated Frontier community nearly 300 miles from Salt Lake City. Internet traffic to and from Moab must be backhauled to an Internet point of presence in Salt Lake City, and Frontier must rely on circuits leased from several other carriers for that route.“The average cost is about $230 a megabit,” said Golob.
By using WideCast, Frontier has been able to reduce backhaul traffic—and costs–by about 25% while also improving the end user experience, Golob said. Although Golob did not have any metrics to illustrate the improvement in the end user experience, he said, “The response time to get a movie or website is faster and the feedback we get from customers is that our performance is better than competitors in the marketplace.”
Not every caching vendor uses the same approach as BTI. Rather than making it part of a packet optical networking platform some vendors have implemented caching on a stand-alone server—an approach Golob said is similar to what content delivery networks such as Akamai and Limelight use. But Golob said the cost-effectiveness of that approach for an individual market has not yet been proven.
Frontier will likely explore the possibility of a server-based approach next year, said Golob.