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Web Hosting Essay

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The present invention is a network architecture or framework that supports hosting and content distribution on a truly global scale. The inventive framework allows a Content Provider to replicate and serve its most popular content at an unlimited number of points throughout the world. The inventive framework comprises a set of servers operating in a distributed manner. The actual content to be served is preferably supported on a set of hosting servers (sometimes referred to as ghost servers). This content comprises HTML page objects that, conventionally, are served from a Content Provider site. In accordance with the invention, however, a base HTML document portion of a Web page is served from the Content Provider's site while one or more embedded objects for the page are served from the hosting servers, preferably, those hosting servers near the client machine. By serving the base HTML document from the Content Provider's site, the Content Provider maintains control over the content.

# These numbers are used for explaining every process involved... explanations are not included in this document and there are other flowcharts and diagrams too which are also not included in this doc.

1. Technical Field
This invention relates generally to information retrieval in a computer network. More particularly, the invention relates to a novel method of hosting and distributing content on the Internet that addresses the problems of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Internet Content Providers. 2. Description of the Related Art

The World Wide Web is the Internet's multimedia information retrieval system. In the Web environment, client machines effect transactions to Web servers using the Hyper­ text Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which is a known application protocol providing users access to files (e.g., text, graphics, images, sound, video, etc.) using a standard page description language known as Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). HTML provides basic document formatting and allows the developer to specify "links" to other servers and files. In the Internet paradigm, a network path to a server is identified by a so-called Uniform Resource Locator (URL) having a special syntax for defining a network connection. Use of an HTML-compatible browser (e.g., Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer) at a client machine involves specification of a link via the URL. In response, the client makes a request to the server identified in the link and, in return, receives a document or other object formatted according to HTML. A collection of documents supported on a Web server is sometimes referred to as a Web site. It is well known in the prior art for a Web site to mirror its content at another server. Indeed, at present, the only method for a Content Provider to place its content closer to its readers is to build copies of its Web site on machines that are located at Web hosting farms in different locations domestically and internationally. These copies of Web sites are known as mirror sites. Unfortunately, mirror sites place unnecessary economic and operational burdens on Content Providers, and they do not offer economies of scale. Economically, the overall cost to a Content Provider with one primary site and one mirror site is more than twice the cost of a single primary site. This additional cost is the result of two factors:

(1) The Content Provider must contract with a separate hosting facility for each mirror site. (2) The Content Provider must incur additional overhead expenses associated with keeping the mirror sites synchronized.

In an effort to address problems associated with mirroring, companies such as Cisco, Resonate, Bright Tiger, FS Labs and Alteon, are developing software and hardware that will help keep mirror sites synchronized and load balanced. Although these mechanisms are helpful to the Content Provider, they fail to address the underlying problem of scalability. Even if a Content Provider is willing to incur the costs associated with mirroring, the technology itself will not scale beyond a few (i.e., less than 10) Web sites. In addition to these economic and scalability issues, mirroring also entails operational difficulties. A Content Provider that uses a mirror site must not only lease and manage physical space in distant locations, but it must also buy and maintain the software or hardware that synchronizes and load balances the sites. Current solutions require Content Providers to supply personnel, technology and other items necessary to maintain multiple Web sites. In summary, mirroring requires Content Providers to waste economic and other resources on functions that are not relevant to their core business of creating content. Moreover, Content Providers also desire to retain control of their content. Today, some ISPs are installing caching hardware that interrupts the link between the Content Provider and the end-user. The effect of such caching can produce devastating results to the Content Provider, including

(1) Preventing the Content Provider from obtaining accurate hit counts on its Web pages (thereby decreasing revenue from advertisers), (2) Preventing the Content Provider from tailoring content and advertising to specific audiences (which severely limits the effectiveness of the Content Provider's Web page), and (3) Providing outdated information to its customers (which can lead to a frustrated and angry end user).

There remains a significant need in the art to provide a decentralized hosting solution that enables users to obtain Internet content on a more efficient basis (i.e., without burdening network resources unnecessarily) and that likewise enables the Content Provider to maintain control over its content. The present invention solves these and other problems associated with the prior art.

It is a general object of the present invention to provide a computer network comprising a large number of widely deployed Internet servers that form an organic, massively fault-tolerant infrastructure designed to serve Web content efficiently, effectively, and reliably to end users. Another more general object of the present invention is to provide a fundamentally new and better method to distribute Web-based content. The inventive architecture provides a method for intelligently routing and replicating content over a large network of distributed servers, preferably with no centralized control.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a network architecture that moves content close to the user. The inventive architecture allows Web sites to develop large audiences without worrying about building a massive infra­ structure to handle the associated traffic. Still another object of the present invention is to provide a fault-tolerant network for distributing Web content. The network architecture is used to speed-up the delivery of richer Web pages, and it all...

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