Digital Photography Made Better, Faster, Cheaper

Working with images in web applications has traditionally been difficult and expensive compared to normal text data, and can consume large amounts of both server resources and staff time.

Now available, Phase N's PhotoN™ digital photography technology is a state of the art image processing and delivery system that allows applications to store and manipulate digital photos and other image data as cheaply and easily as simple text information.

PhotoN is the result of 18 months of research and development, applying information theory and cryptography algorithms to the problem of retrieving and transforming images (or any information product) and delivering them to the user while taking maximum advantage of all internet and browser caching technologies, atthe same time avoiding traditional pitfalls and limitations.

The results are astounding!  Powerful, flexible and easy to use digital photography features are made available to developers and web designers with almost no administrative overhead.  Images are produced, delivered and managed using a set of highly sophisticated algorithms that approach the mathematical limit of efficiency for this class of system, and provide the ability for "ammortized O(1)" scalability.

Features and Benefits


PhotoN™ for Web Designers
One simple tag on a page...

[% Model.Photo('200x200') %]

...for super-efficient photos...

Sample Image
...exactly the size you need!
Sample Image

On-the-fly Image Generation

With PhotoN there is no more need for clunky scripts to pre-generate separate "thumbnail" images and no restriction to using photos at only one or two particular sizes.

The size of images used in various pages can be changed by page designers at any time, or even calculated in real time and tailored for each individual visitor.  For example, "full screen" photos can be created that are a perfect match for each different user's screen.

While building the page, PhotoN will retrieve the original image from the database, modify it in any way needed (most often scaling), and have it finished and ready to go moments before it is requested by the web browser.  And then it will never need to check or look at or know anything about that image for any reason ever again.

Cryptographically Secure Photo File Names

All photos managed by PhotoN are prepared and sent to the user using a set of mathematical and cryptographic algorithms to ensure that it is impossible to predict the filename and locate any image other than the ones each user is supposed to see.

This ensures that every user sees only the images you want them to, and are never able to "guess" the filenames of any other images.

This makes it PhotoN safe for use in situations where they may be social issues or government regulations relating to inappropriate access, like medical images or images of children.  The strength of this protection can be "dialed" as needed for each application all the way up to military-grade encryption.

Ultra-Efficient Caching

As well as providing cryptographically secure file names, the same logic is also used to help power the caching engine.

Despite the almost completely random file names, the PhotoN™ Image Cache is able to reliably tell if the photo modified in the way it needs has already been created without having to read the existing or original images.

In fact, the only time image data ever has to be "looked at" is when the application requests a new photo it has never seen before (known as a "cache miss"), and the modified image has to be created to put into the cache.  This ability to work with photos in web pages without having to actually know anything about them is what makes the use of images so incredibly efficient.

Large pages of thumbnails, photo set indexes and search result pages can be generated unbelievably quickly and accurately and can be accessed by large numbers of people at the same time without adding any load to the web server after the first request for an image.

Original Photos Stay in the Database

With PhotoN the original version of all photos stay in the database with the rest of your data.  This greatly reduces the risk of damage, and removes many of the management and system administration issues that can occur when storing the original photos outside of the database on the filesystem (a common practice normally done for simplicity and efficiency reasons).

Because the originals are stored securely they are immune from accidental damage caused by inexperience sysadmins or junior programmers, and security permissions can be applied to your images using the same rules as for the rest of your data.  Photos stored on the filesystem are typically not secured with the same rules as the database, which can result in a number of potential security problems.

Should accidental damage to the photos in the cache occur, it can simply be flushed out and will gradually fill again as each image is needed.  On mass hosting accounts additional cache maintenance functions can easily be added to help recover space by removing any older files that have not been accessed recently.  A variety of rules can be applied, such as "cull images older than...", "remove largest first" or "limit cache disk quota".

With all of the data in the database, migration to a new database or web server now becomes trivial.  Photos are included in the main database export and are easily transferred to the new database.  The contents of the old image cache can be discarded, and the new image cache will automatically start to fill with images as they are needed.

Amazing Scalability

PhotoN is rediculously scalable.  The photos created by PhotoN are completely normal files, and are sent to the browser like any other static image file.  As normal files, the images are fully compatible with all existing web caching technologies, so browsers and ISPs can cache images as heavily as they want without any risk of the files getting "stale" or out of date.  Squid servers can be dropped in front of the PhotoN servers to reduce raw data transfer and let the main server concentrate on cache misses, and only cache misses.

PhotoN will never reuse the same file name for a different image, so applications with regularly-changing images work as you would expect, even with over-aggressive ISP caches doing the "wrong thing".

Further, one PhotoN Image Cache can be shared amongst an entire cluster of application servers, without having to actually share any data between the cluster nodes.  The delivery of the images is done completely independent from the application itself.

Because of this independence, high-use applications that are also heavy image users can be easily deployed to these large-scale environments.  In extreme cases PhotoN can deliver images to the browser using completely separate and dedicated image servers which work without needing any PhotoN software installed on them.

Would you like to know more?

PhotoN is quite a malleable technology, and we can tailor the algorithmic core to adapt it to many different situations. Got an idea for a use for PhotoN? Let's talk!

To discuss PhotoN or just to get more information, contact us


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