Novell Product Promises Safe, Fast E-Commerce

Novell Inc. is expected to announce software for its Internet Caching System that the company says will help ensure the integrity and boost the speed of e-business transactions.

Secure Accelerator, formerly code-named SSLizer, speeds e-commerce transactions based on Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) by encrypting data, verifying the identity of the user and re-encrypting the data for delivery in real time. The software sits on an ICS 2.0 caching server between the client browser and the Web server and uses spare processor cycles on the ICS appliance to off-load SSL negotiations and data encryption from the Web server, freeing it to concentrate on the task of delivering Web pages.

Novell confirmed that Secure Accelerator will be sold as a software-only product that runs with ICS or as part of an accelerator card package marketed through a systems manufacturer. Secure Accelerator implemented as hardware and software would compete with adapters from Rainbox Technologies that are placed in caching products from CacheFlow and Network Engines or appliances or adapters from Phobos or Sun. The market for these products is exploding as more businesses become involved in e-commerce and require fast, secure transactions, according to market research firm IDC.

"By bolting an SSL accelerator onto a caching product, you can speed up cache response time considerably for already cached content," says John Humphreys, an analyst with IDC. "Those kinds of requests can be pushed to the caching product instead of having to rely on the Web server."

Brian Faustyn, a product manager for Novell, says Secure Accelerator could handle up to 200 connections per second. That corresponds to Phobos' SSLRack, which processes the same number of transactions per second. Novell says a Web server can establish 322 non-SSL connections per second, but when SSL is added that drops to 24 connections per second.

SSL is the predominant method for securing e-commerce transactions. HTTP transactions protected by SSL are known as secure HTTP. SSL creates an encrypted link between the client's browser and the Web server. The additional processing to encrypt this data and decrypt it causes as many as 25 percent of Web transactions to abort because of poor response time, the company claims.

"When you add SSL to a Web server, you add a pretty significant CPU bottleneck," says Brian Holman, chief information officer for WebMiles in Sandy, Utah.

"It's also cleaner to add the SSL acceleration to the caching box instead of setting up two instances of a Web server, one for non-SSL data and one for SSL data, which are administered separately," he adds.

WebMiles is an Internet company that gives consumers unrestricted miles redeemable for free travel.

IDC says the caching software and appliance market is just emerging. The research company estimates the caching market will be US$400 million for 2000, increasing to more than $4 billion by 2004.

Secure Accelerator uses NDS eDirectory, the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol or a Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service server to validate certificates and authenticate users to the system. It supports all common Web server software from vendors such as Apache, Netscape and Microsoft. All of today's Internet browsers are also supported.

The product is expected to ship at the start of next year. Prices are not

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