For many web publishers and technology firms, CDN and bandwidth costs are a fact of life and just the cost of doing business on the Internet. But technology startup 3Crowd believes that by enabling customers to build their own caches, it will be able to send CDN costs down to zero. That could have a disruptive effect not just on the CDN industry, but it could allow for the creation new, more innovative applications.
3Crowd’s new CrowdCache product works by enabling customers to create their own caches, which can be used in place of typical CDN resources. In addition to companies like Revision3 and Break Media, 3Crowd’s customers include web hosting companies and other service providers with data center resources that are going unused most of the time.
CrowdCache adds intelligence to those network resources to ensure something better than best-effort content delivery. It also allows them to blend their own infrastructure with cloud offerings to boost quality of service. 3Crowd customers are therefore able to leverage existing infrastructure to deliver content to end users. Because CrowdCache also works with 3Crowd’s CrowdDirector load-balancing software, companies can ensure the right quality of service for content delivered via their own infrastructure in addition to other CDNs.
The next step will be not just letting customers use those resources as caches for their own content, but in creating an ecosystem of caches around the world that can be leveraged by anyone for content delivery. By doing so, service providers will be able to sell or donate those resources to the broader community, effectively creating a global clearinghouse for bandwidth. Companies will then be able to set different levels of quality of service that they provide, and publishers will be able to deliver across those caches based upon the service levels necessary.
In the CrowdCached world that 3Crowd envisions, no one company will own the caching infrastructure used to deliver content in the way that Akamai or Limelight do today. Instead, it will be spread out over thousands of distributed caches using excess bandwidth. As a result, the market could eventually become even more commoditized, driving the effective cost of bandwidth down to zero.
3Crowd was founded by Barrett Lyon, co-founder and former CTO of startup CDN BitGravity. So he knows a little bit about how the content distribution world works.
So why disrupt the CDN industry? For one thing, Lyon believes the cost of content distribution is a barrier to entry for innovation on the web. Customers typically pay for the use of a CDN’s infrastructure, but aren’t able to leverage the technology of the infrastructure beyond what they pay for. By opening up the ecosystem and offering them to build caches of their own, Lyon believes that bandwidth costs will plummet, which will enable the creation of cooler applications in the future.
And what does 3Crowd get out of sending CDN costs to zero? Unlike the traditional per-bit model for content delivery, 3Crowd gets paid on a sliding scale based on the number of requests it receives. There’s even a free “garage startup” option for customers who receive less than a million requests per month.
3Crowd raised a $6.6 million Series A round of financing from Canaan Partners and Storm Ventures last April, following a seed round from Kevin Rose, Jay Adelson, Storm Ventures and Greenwich Technology Associates.