WHEN LUCASFILM LTD. BEGAN rereleasing the Star Wars trilogy last year, fans didn't swarm just to movie theaters. About a million people immediately mobbed the films' official Web site, hosted by startup Organic Online Inc. in San Francisco. For help, Organic turned to Seattle-based InterNAP Network Services Corp., which set up a special bank of routers that it calls a "private network access point," or P-NAP, on its Seattle premises.
InterNAP then arranged for MCI Communications Corp. and other operators of high-speed Internet "backbones" to assign special priority to all traffic to and from the Star Wars site. Requests for Star Wars Web pages arriving at any of MCI's routers were sent speeding along private leased lines directly to Organic's P-NAP in Seattle. And thanks to a technique InterNAP calls "symmetrical routing," the requested Star Wars pages were zapped back along exactly the same route, instead of getting bounced among crowded public interchanges. This enabled Organic's site to handle some 5 million hits a day. It also caught the attention of Hambrecht & Quist Venture Capital, Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures, and others. In early November, these investors pumped nearly $20 million into InterNAP. The company is now leasing lines from eight of the world's largest backbone operators. And it will soon construct P-NAPs in as many as 36 American cities.