Dynamic acceleration

In an effort to attract and retain customers online this holiday season, vendors will be making use of Web site personalization tools.

The practice of tailoring content has become a common logistical component for enriching the user experience while enabling businesses to improve profitability through suggestive and up-selling of products.

The difficulty with on-the-fly content delivery is that it can bring application-server performance to its knees and quickly expose architectural bottlenecks within your network.

Between presentation logic, business logic, and facilitating back-end connectors -- whether to legacy subsystems, XML processing, or simple database calls -- the potential for delays in serving dynamic content is considerable. And resolving the issue has typically demanded costly investments in additional hardware and bandwidth.

Many businesses want the benefits of personalization, but few can afford to scale up their infrastructure this pre-holiday season.

Fortunately, the need for speed has spawned the new caching category called dynamic-content acceleration. A dynamic-content accelerator is positioned between the Web server and back-end resources to field and fill logic requests. Relying on the expectation that even personalized content will make use of some recycled data, content accelerators reduce the number of application server and database calls needed to compose an HTML page response.

The process provides performance-enhancing benefits that can enable processing of a greater volume of concurrent page requests without suffering a performance hit.

Implementing dynamic-content acceleration does require a bit of Web page retooling. And important consideration must be paid to maintaining the relevancy data in the cache.

Several vendors in this market space offer competent products with sufficient monitoring and cache management tools to keep data fresh and hit ratios at their optimal peak.

Some good starting places include pioneers such as SpiderCache Inc., Chutney Technologies Inc., XCache Technologies, and even Oracle Corp. Although each offers solutions with varying degrees of competence, the concept and ultimate benefits realized will be sizeable. For example, Oracle uses their own Edge Side Includes markup for page assembly, and XCache is well-suited to optimizing different content types.

Dynamic-content accelerators are an affordable way for businesses to improve their response times without increasing infrastructure expenditures.

And in the delivery of a personalized marketing experience, that's more than any IT administrator could wish for this holiday season.

How are you keeping your Web systems humming? Let me know by writing to me at james_borck@infoworld.com.

James R. Borck is managing analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center.

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