Level 3 takes on USGS earthquake network

New contract covers content delivery network

The U.S. Geological Survey will use Level 3 Communications Inc.’s content delivery network services to ensure its Web sites remain able to provide information about earthquake activity and other hazards when a disaster threatens.

Under a multiyear General Services Administration IT Schedule 70 contract, Level 3 will optimize Web site performance for the Interior Department’s www.usgs.gov and related Web sites that deliver such publicly available information.

And just two weeks ago, the company announced it would extend access to those same capabilities through a new Content Delivery Partner program, which will let direct resellers, value-added resellers and solutions partners (such as developers of online media players) leverage its content delivery network, or CDN, and Vyvx broadcast platforms for online and broadcast end-users.

For USGS, the CDN services will help it fulfill part of its mission: to minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters. When earthquakes or other natural disasters threaten, Web site traffic spikes with people seeking updates and other critical information, such as interactive maps and video. That surge of demand for online content and burst of traffic to a site can bring it down just when it’s needed most.

A content delivery network uses load balancers, redundant content storage, online content caching and other technologies to respond to such bursts of activity to keep sites up and running. By placing information at the edge of networks — and close to the end-user — a CDN can provide quality, on-time delivery, even during peak traffic and in response to unpredictable demand.

That flexibility also makes CDN a valuable tool for delivering streaming media. For example, digital entertainment and multimedia provider M3X Media Inc. last year contracted to use Level 3’s North American data network as its primary content delivery infrastructure.

Washington Technology in July spoke with Ed Morche, Level 3’s senior vice president and general manager of federal markets, about the market for the company’s CDN services. Customers were “mostly commercial so far, but we’re doing it all over the world,” he said.

Should an earthquake shake California, for example, West Coast Web site traffic would be markedly higher than that from the East Coast. “Because we own and operate our own network, it’s also easy for us to do a burstable solution geographically,” Morche said. Level 3 has 42,000 miles in long-haul network and 77,000 miles of total fiber, with 53,000 in Europe and the United States. It has more than 40 content caching or storage sites in 14 countries.

Under its new CDP program, Level 3 will work with partner companies to customize value-added solutions that better enable services that link content creators with content consumers.

At the Jan. 26, launch of the program, the company counted among its participants Adobe Systems Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Savvis Inc., among others.

Level 3 holds contracts under GSA’s Networx Enterprise and WITS3.

About the Author

Sami Lais is a special contributor to Washington Technology.

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