Intelligent Software Is The Future Of Application Delivery, Not Networking Centric Approaches

I have written a few times about Instart Logic and its web application streaming technology. The company has attacked incumbent CDNs with a novel technology that it claims makes those same CDNs obsolete. The core of the technology is a way to build a connection between Instart Logic’s delivery network and the browser on the user’s device. This connection is enabled by a small JavaScript software layer Instart Logic calls the nanovisor on the smartphone, tablet or laptop. The technology allows Instart Logic to identify which parts of a web app are the highest priority and stream them down to the user. This is attracting media companies as well as ecommerce companies that are both investing in delivering very high quality images and dynamic, personalized content.

Instart Logic’s intelligent connection is built entirely upon software smarts and is a shift away from the hardware centric approaches of traditional CDNs. Instart Logic claims that being software-based from the ground up allows for faster iteration and innovation along with lower capital costs. This is very different from the hardware centric approaches from Akamai and other similar vendors, who depend on lots of servers sitting in data centers around the world.

By moving to a “software-defined” model of application delivery, Instart Logic is designed to address the latest performance bottleneck – the wireless “last mile” from the cell tower or WiFi router to the device. The last mile is so painful for traditional CDNs because of four main variables including: network conditions and congestion, speed of Internet connection, application content and structure, and device type. One or any combination of the four can cause applications to load slowly or render a poor user experience. Instart Logic specifically designed its solution to take into account all four of these variables and use software-driven intelligence to address them for each specific user. This is their real secret sauce.

To back up their claim that software-based application delivery allows for faster builds of new features and greater technology innovation flexibility, Instart Logic has been releasing new features and technologies at an impressive clip. The two latest releases are both very interesting and something I have been spending some time to better understand. SmartVision is a new technology that works with the company’s image streaming capability. It uses computer vision technology to analyze the content of images. It can tell whether an image, for example, is a blue ocean or a face, a mountain or picture of a car.

SmartVision decides the minimum image data send required to make the image recognizable on first paint of the screen with a good quality of experience. A picture of a face might require more up front data transfer because of the sharp details whereas a picture of an ocean might not. This will reduce the data transfer to first-load images on the page and thereby reduce page load times. Instart Logic has a patent pending on this technology and is publishing scientific papers about the new approach, which came out of collaborations with image researchers at leading universities.

The second new technology is a feature Instart Logic calls InstantLoad. InstantLoad takes certain components of a web application that are most likely to be used early on in the page load process and use its client side nanovisor.js library to push those assets into the highest performing class of browser cache. In modern browsers with HTML5 technology, there are different classes of browser caches with varying performance. In a nutshell, InstantLoad puts the most highly demanded information into the highest performance cache depending on the devices capabilities and performance.

This is a clear way to leverage newer capabilities that only came online in HTML5 very recently. The technology works across all major browsers and is particularly useful for upping the performance of SaaS applications. Those types of web apps tend to be used throughout the day by users loading up the same pages over and over. So for those apps, any way to improve client side cache usage and performance can greatly improve the user experience and diminish wait times.

Both of these features plug directly into the existing software framework of Instart Logic. To be clear, some of the large incumbent CDNs use software to optimize content delivery and adapt delivery to changing circumstances, such as device type. Other CDNs capture very basic information such as the device type and the network condition and then make changes on the backend to code and images. To date and to my knowledge, only Instart Logic establishes a two-way communications channel between the device and the network and can make real-time decisions using a smart client in the browser, making them unique in the market.

By going deep into the device and using intelligent software to create an entirely new type of application delivery network, Instart Logic is clearly trying to differentiate itself from Akamai, EdgeCast and Amazon CloudFront. If the company can continue to roll out new features and pull in marquee customers like The Washington Post, then that product differentiation could force the incumbents to think about radical overhauls to their technologies, and makes Instart Logic a company to really keep an eye on. If I had to make a short-list of companies that I think are truly innovating in the content delivery market right now, Instart Logic would be number one on that list.