Software Streams Internet Apps

PALO ALTO, CALIF. (05/03/2000) - A new software product could dramatically improve the performance of Internet applications, particularly Java-based client ones.

AppStream Inc.'s server program breaks an application into pieces and streams the appropriate components over the Internet to PCs.

AppStream Server uses proprietary algorithms to deduce what components are needed next by the end user and exploits a proprietary protocol to transmit them.

None of the components are installed on a PC's hard drive; effectively they float in the computer's memory.

The startup's software is conceptually similar to Altis, a program released more than a year ago by Epicon of Waltham, Massachusetts. The program is aimed at Windows applications.

AppStream claims its software works with applications designed for any operating system platform but says the software is especially well-suited for Java applications used inside a browser.

Java lets programmers add a host of interactive features to otherwise static HTML-based pages. But Java for the client has been floundering for years, because even lean Java applications take a long time to download over the Internet.

That's why MochaMail eagerly embraced AppStream Server. MochaMail created a 300K-byte Java mail client. The idea was that users would download the client, and then access Internet mail and related services at MochaMail's Web site.

"Over a 28.8[K bit/sec] modem line, it took users about a minute and a half to download the client," says Scott McPherson, CEO and founder of the Palo Alto e-mail service firm. "No one wanted to wait that long."

Software engineers have been working with a prerelease version of AppStream Server for about two months. The software's impact has proven to be dramatic, McPherson says. "For us, it means you can start using our client in 5 to 10 seconds. AppStream delivers only what you need," he says.

Other approaches to speeding Internet applications let end users request additional functions as needed but force end users to wait while the additional code is being downloaded, McPherson says. "AppStream is working in the background, selecting and moving the parts the user will likely need next," he says.

MochaMail is waiting for AppStream to add support for a wider array of browser versions before including the software on its Web site for good.

AppStream has introduced a way for companies to scale Internet applications without the need for ever bigger computers and more bandwidth, says Darcy Fowkes, research director with Aberdeen Group, a research firm in Boston.

"The question is, how do we make the Internet faster?" she says. "Doing it by breaking up the application and making it easier for these pieces to traverse the Internet is a fabulous concept."

Enterprise users can install AppStream Server on any HTTP server and begin using it to distribute software to employees over corporate intranets.

AppStream works with any compiled application, and no recoding of any kind is required, says Neal Fink, the company's vice president of marketing.

The starting price is about $25,000, he says. The software is available now.


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