BOX 2.5Bandwidth Concerns of a Commercial Content Provider

Ovid Technologies, Inc., is an aggregator of information on science, technology, and medicine. The company provides centralized access to resources such as bibliographic databases and full text journals via individual CD-ROMs, servers located on local area networks, and the Internet. The entire Ovid database contains about 200 gigabytes (GB) of text and images, about 5 to 10 GB of which is updated each month. On average, each subscriber (there might be 100 to 250 individual users) downloads 300 MB of data per month, which translates to 70 kB of data per individual per day. Some large academic institutions have 100 concurrent users who download 30 GB of data per month. Usage rates triple every year.

Ovid Online is based in Utah and is connected to the public Internet via three T1 lines. This bandwidth is sufficient for most North American users, but some 13 large universities, consortia, and corporations have established dedicated connections to the database (typically via frame relay connections—see Chapter 3) with speeds of 56 to 256 kilobits per second (kbps). These dedicated connections also allow pharmaceutical companies to prevent competitors from finding out what information they are seeking. Other users have established hybrid connections in which certain databases (e.g., MEDLINE) are loaded onto a local server and updated weekly, but other large databases (e.g., those containing full text journals) are accessed via the Internet or a dedicated line.

Because of inadequacies in Internet bandwidth to locations overseas, the company has established additional servers in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Japan, Hong Kong, and Australia onto which Ovid products have been loaded via CD-ROM. The company recently contracted with a service provider that will provide guaranteed bandwidth and quality of service for transoceanic downloading of updates. Updating the entire database demands kilobytes per second of bandwidth, but it is difficult and expensive to update six to eight regions of the world simultaneously. Ovid would like more bandwidth and improved quality of service in order to conduct network-based updates. Alternatively, it could redesign its system to send just the 5 to 10 GB of changed information. The trade-off is a matter of cost as much as of technical capability.

SOURCE: Based on a presentation by William Detmer, vice president, Ovid Technologies, Inc., to the committee on March 2, 1999, Washington, D.C.

From: 2, Health Applications of the Internet

Cover of Networking Health
Networking Health: Prescriptions for the Internet.
National Research Council (US) Committee on Enhancing the Internet for Health Applications: Technical Requirements and Implementation Strategies.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2000.
Copyright © 2000, National Academy of Sciences.

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