Moments before Hurricane Katrina crashed ashore, some people in Southern
Louisiana accessed warnings on WeatherBug.com and sought shelter, prior
even to hearing local hurricane warnings go off. And as Katrina ravaged
the Gulf Coast, thousands of people across the nation and around the
world were able to watch real-time streaming videos of the devastating
WeatherBug, an online weather service, provided this up-to-the-minute
coverage largely thanks to Mirror Image Internet, Inc.’s content delivery
Unlike during other major storms, such as 2004’s Florida hurricanes and
the Asian tsunami, WeatherBug viewers didn’t experience long waits or
crashes when logging on during hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
WeatherBug’s traffic spiked 70 percent on the day Katrina hit, up from
the daily average of just under 6 million unique viewers to 9.9 million.
The Germantown, Md.-based weather network was able to provide photos and
streaming video during the traffic spike thanks to its CDN, according to
Yossi Firstenberg, vice president of IT operations at WeatherBug.
”We wouldn’t have the capacity to handle the traffic without it,” says
Firstenberg. ”We can’t [predict] the numbers of page views and unique
visitors when severe weather hits. The CDN has the capacity to support
WeatherBug replaced its previous CDN provider with Mirror Image, a
Tewksbury, Mass.-based global content delivery solutions provider,
because of performance issues. Firstenberg says they were looking to
provide an ‘always-on’ service to its private network of weather
stations, which include consumers, mobile users, businesses, state and
local government agencies, the National Weather Service, teachers and
Mirror Image’s Content Access Point (CAP) network and Web caching
solution is designed to not only allow WeatherBug customers constant
access to weather updates, but also frees up the WeatherBug staff and
budget, according to Firstenberg.
”The CDN enables us to focus and invest resources on building our core
system while they are supporting systems like images and radar,” says
Firstenberg, who adds that the company employs about 250 people and runs
on 1,000 servers.
Richard Buck, vice president of engineering at Mirror Image, says his
company’s CDN provides customers, like WeatherBug, with a service that
would be difficult to execute independently.
”Almost no customer can support a global network and support traffic
spikes,” says Buck.
Counse Broders, resource director for network services at Current
Analysis, a Washington, D.C.-based IT analyst firm, says CDNs provide
companies with assurance that their content is going to be delivered
during high traffic periods.
”The big fear with content on the Web is the flash crowd,” says
Broders. ”You have to think about how to set up severs, get content out
to the end user, and how to allocate all of this. CDNs provide that level
Firstenberg adds that without Mirror Image’s services, WeatherBug would
have suffered financial and reputation losses during Katrina.
”We had 100 percent up-time during the hurricanes and couldn’t have had
that without the CDN,” says Firstenberg. ”We would have lost customers
that rely on us for data.”
With 155 customers and only 70 employees, Mirror Image is a smaller
company than its biggest competitor, Akamai, a global on-demand content
and business provider based in Cambridge, Mass. Akamai, with 1,700
customers, extends its global reach to 69 countries and operates on
17,500 servers over 1,000 networks.
Ira Weinstein, senior analyst with Wainhouse Research, an independent
market research firm headquartered in Duxbury, Mass., says size and
locations aren’t as important as they were five to 10 years ago.
”Mirror Image is definitely small compared to Akamai, but that doesn’t
make much of a difference because CDNs are becoming a bit of a
commodity,” says Weinstein. ”The access point isn’t the big story
Weinstein says Mirror Image distinguishes itself from the crowd by
offering an appealing pricing plan and a strong caching system.
”Mirror Image has a very good caching system,” says Weinstein. ”The
centralized, big data centers allow requests to get around the world
”Mirror Image is gaining customers because they are bending over
backwards for customers,” says Weinstein. ”The technology is not much
better or much worse then other CDNs, but they are working to make it
easy for the customer and to minimize their exposure.”