Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Qwilt, Maker of Super-Caching Gear for Video, Lands $16 Million Series C Round

It has been a while since I’ve thought of Qwilt, the company behind a line of video infrastructure that helps service providers like cable networks handle the growing demand for Internet video. It first came out of stealth mode in the fall of 2011, and when I learned that flash memory was used at the heart of its gear, I naturally added Qwilt to the “Flash Madness” club that includes so many companies using the ubiquitous chip-based storage technology.

A lot has happened since then. On Tuesday, the company will announce that it has landed a $16 million Series C round of venture capital funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Previous investors Accel Partners, Redpoint Ventures and Marker LLC are also participating. The new round brings Qwilt’s total capital raised to $40 million.

Qwilt’s mission is essentially the same since we talked back in 2011. The idea is to give service providers like Time Warner, Comcast and others the means to put popular Internet video content close to the users who want to watch it, thus making it easier to deliver. According to the reckoning of networking giant Cisco Sytems, consumer video accounted for about 57 percent of all Internet traffic around the world last year, and will in time swell to about 70 percent by 2017. Therein lies the opportunity that Qwilt is going after.

“It’s probably one of the biggest challenges that network operators are going to face in the next decade,” said Qwilt CEO Alon Maor. And that’s not just Netflix and YouTube and Hulu. Give it a few years — Chromecast anyone? — and there will be many more services, including a lot of live streaming of sports and news, and probably a bunch of things we haven’t thought of yet.

Qwilt’s software runs on commodity hardware that gets deployed at the neighborhood level. It grabs the popular stuff that consumers like the most, and maintains a local copy that can be easily streamed from that location without taking up bandwidth on the carrier’s main network infrastructure.

It’s now also starting to help improve not only the load on the network, but the quality of the viewing experience. For example, in the U.S., the average bit rate on a YouTube video is improving by 58 percent.

Since 2011, the Qwilt product has started shipping, and the company has landed 25 deployments with customers. And every deployment, Maor said, has been plug-and-play, meaning that no technicians were dispatched to help the customer get the gear up and running. Once deployed, he said, the video load on the carrier’s network gets reduced by about half, on average. And now the large tier-one operators in the U.S. and Europe are kicking the tires.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik