FastForward finds funding


San Francisco Bay area start-up FastForward Networks received a strong boost to its broadband software business last week, to the tune of $35 million.

Strategic investors include America Online, RealNetworks, Sun Microsystems, Enron Broadband Services and Inktomi Corp. Venture-capital firms participating include Accel Partners and Bowman Capital.

RealNetworks is one of several companies, along with Digital Island, participating in a trial of FastForward's software network platform to enable constant video streaming rates. That software platform will launch commercially this week, according to Director of Business Development Alan Saldich. "The most important thing to us was the caliber and scope of the strategic investors," he said. "They all saw the technology that FastForward was developing as a critical element for the industry."

The company will primarily use the funding for research and development, according to Saldich.

The investment indicates a serious commitment to support technology that speeds the advent of palatable video streaming, according to Steve Von der Haar, analyst for the Boston-based Yankee Group. "The problem is to improve the quality of the multimedia they're delivering," he said. "There's a lot of steps between where the industry is today and making video streaming a commercially viable service."

FastForward's BroadcastOverlay Architecture enables Web video programmers to push their capacity to stream live events by "injecting" packets of the video being streamed at the edge of the network. The idea is to eliminate Net congestion by bypassing large segments of the Internet through a system of routers and servers connected to the Web at strategic population points.

The FastForward basic system starts at $250,000 for a single network of MediaBridge routers and adapters, which constitute its backbone, and the Broadcast Manager, which enables programmers to monitor their streamed content in real time.