Caching Market Warms as Vendors Push Capabilities

SAN MATEO (05/05/2000) - As caching technology expands its reach, more vendors are beginning to focus their offerings on specific segments of the market, such as enterprise applications, dynamic content, or streaming media, as well as setting their sights on taking a chunk of business away from caching and content delivery leaders such as Akamai Technologies Inc. and Inktomi Corp.

Following this trend, Network Appliance Inc. this week brought out NetCache C1100 appliance for small remote offices and ISPs' POPs (points of presence), a change from its usual fare of larger caching devices and solutions for enterprises. Separately, Persistence Software Inc. is seeking to corner the market on e-commerce dynamic content caching, the Holy Grail of caching and content delivery.

"Dynamic content is the next step in the evolution of caching," said Alex Benik, an analyst at The Yankee Group, in Boston. "Caching more dynamic content and not just images is the next move; [the market] is moving much more into tightly integrating with databases and having caches in the future hold pieces of distributed applications."

Persistence's Dynamai software, which handles caching of dynamic business content, targets e-commerce companies such as auction Web sites or business-to-business portals that need to have online information consistently updated as part of improving site performance.

"What we're doing is revolutionizing caching," said Chris Keene, CEO and co-founder of Persistence. "The Web is literally alive with changing business content."

Dynamai identifies dynamic content with little modification to back-end systems.

The software must be configured to recognize particular events, such as a bid increase on an auction site, and it caches new information related to that event based on when and how the event was generated. The software also "remembers" answers to common questions, reducing response times.

Martin Marshall, managing director at Zona Research, in Redwood City, California, said this event-driven solution sets Dynamai apart from competing products: Cacheflow, which offers a time-based cache-updating solution, and EpicRealm, which caches perishable content and delivers it to users on demand.

"This is the first [dynamic cache] I know of based upon event-triggering, and that's a very logical way of doing it," Marshall said.

However, because dynamic caching is the gold ring on the caching carousel, other vendors will not remain quiet. Marshall said he "would not be surprised to see Inktomi and Akamai come out with their own attempt at this thing," as well as some ASPs (application service providers).

Dynamai, becoming widely available in late May at a volume-discount starting price of $25,000 per CPU, runs on Solaris versions 2.6 and later, Linux's Red Hat 6.1 and later, and Windows NT.

For Network Appliance, focusing on placing its 1U-size NetCache C1100 devices in enterprises' remote offices and ISPs' POPs gives them an advantage in pushing the network edge a step closer to end-users.

The device has ties to LDAP and Radius information sources and will add Windows NT authentication connections in the near future.

"I see [NetCache C1100] as really rounding out the product family; Network Appliance can serve the whole gamut of people who are interested in caching," said The Yankee Group's Benik.

Available this month, NetCache C1100 pricing starts at $5,950.

Network Appliance Inc., in Sunnyvale, California, is at www.networkappliance.com. Persistence Software Inc., in San Mateo, California, is at www.persistence.com.

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