Valve has enlisted the services of digital content delivery specialists Limelight Networks to host Steam's platform servers, and make provisions for the distribution of its online content.
Although many, many gamers make use of Steam - thanks largely to claims it will one day be the first place to get hold of Half-Life 2 - the service has suffered from a number of problems since its inception. Downtime, server strain, denial of service attacks and bugs still figure in day to day Steam usage, as a number of gamers learned when a recent $160,000 Counter-Strike tournament in Las Vegas has to be shelved "after access to Valve's Steam authentication service was found to be inconsistent," in the words of the organisers.
Valve has denied those claims (Doug Lombardi said they were downright inaccurate), but nevertheless Limelight Networks will soon begin hosting Steam, which should help to avoid problems. In a statement yesterday, Valve founder Gabe Newell praised Limelight's reliability.
"We selected Limelight Networks as one of our first hosting partners because they have a proven ability to deliver heavy media files quickly, inexpensively and with guaranteed reliability," he said. "With our current games generating more Internet usage each month than Italy's total online traffic, we know we have demanding customers. And, as we approach the release of Half-Life 2, we are anticipating increased usage. Our hosting partnership with Limelight Networks will be a tremendous step toward helping us provide high quality service during the heavy peak loads generated by these avid gamers."
Based in Tempe, Arizona, Limelight Networks have been doing this sort of thing for a while, and already handle content delivery services for companies like Musicmatch and Real Networks, to give some idea. It's not clear when Limelight will begin hosting Steam, but with Half-Life 2 still hopefully pencilled in for April, it should be very soon.