It was two years ago when Barrett Lyon first told me about how he wanted to disrupt the CDN industry. His startup, 3Crowd, had just raised a round of seed funding from folks like Kevin Rose, Jay Adelson, Storm Ventures and Greenwich Technology Associates. Up until that point, people just kind of assumed that 3Crowd was some sort of crowdsourcing venture. It wasn’t until later that I learned what Lyon and team were crowdsourcing was actually excess network capacity, in an effort to create a new way of distributing media over the Internet.
That plan is coming to fruition, as his startup is rebranding itself XDN — which stands for eXchange Delivery Network — and finally coming out of beta, with plans to offer content delivery services to anyone at a steep discount compared to providers like Akamai and Limelight. It also hopes to help network operators with unused resources to make a little extra cash by hooking into its federated CDN.
Lyon, who is the co-founder and former CTO of BitGravity, believes that the way that the Internet works today is broken. After all, the whole reason that CDNs like Akamai, Limelight and BitGravity exist is because the broader World Wide Web is inefficient as a best-effort way of getting a piece of digital content from one place to another. To combat that inefficiency, CDNs have poured billions of dollars into building infrastructure and software for routing content over their own networks.
But CDN networks, and the software they run, is proprietary. And oh, you have to pay for access to take advantage of those express lanes.
With that in mind, Lyon and his team built software that network operators can deploy on their own networks, allowing them to roll their own CDNs. By then tying those networks together, XDN can use excess network capacity in a massively distributed way.
It’s like creating an Akamai-like network, but without having to actually invest in the data center hardware or bandwidth necessary to do so. Instead, XDN relies on network resources from third parties to make things work. And since it didn’t need to commit massive amounts in network infrastructure, XDN can offer cut-rate prices to customers delivering content over its CDN.
What do the network operators get out of it? Well, they get better delivery of their own content throughout the XDN network. More importantly, though, infrastructure providers make money off their excess capacity. They get a share of the revenues, based on the amount of content delivered over the network.
In other words, customers pay less. Infrastructure providers monetize unused network resources. XDN offers global, competitive CDN services. Everyone wins.
It’s still early, but the startup is getting some traction: XDN has signed up 14 providers and already offers services to more than 30 CDN customers. The San Mateo, Calif.-based company has 20 employees, and raised a $6.6 million Series A financing round in April 2010 from Canaan Partners and Storm Ventures in April.