No quick answer to ASP slowdowns

Application service providers offer some distinct advantages: somebody else manages your system, applications can be updated without a major investment, and ASPs can offer greater security than your own computer system.

But ASPs suffer a major drawback. The services - which you rent and use online - can be excruciatingly slow. So slow that it's possible for even an average typist to make it hard for an application to keep up.

The problem usually isn't in the server where the word processor resides or the terminal where the user types; it's the wires, cables or microwaves that link the two.

The amount of traffic on the line, the kind of line and the distance the signals need to travel can affect how fast the application works.

In an extreme example, the Navy hoped to link applications kept in shore-based servers to terminals on deployed ships via satellite. Sailors soon discovered that for signals to travel from the ground to a satellite and down to a ship and then return the same way took so long that shore-based applications were impractical.

Citrix Systems, may have come up with a partial solution.

Mark Templeton, Citrix's chief executive officer, said his company has developed a way to use a client terminal's memory temporarily while awaiting the arrival of slow-moving information from the server hosting the application. Although the system doesn't actually overcome the problem of delayed transmissions, Templeton conceded, it makes the delays less obvious.

Speaking at the GovTech conference in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, Templeton said Citrix would release more information about the company's lag-time solution in several weeks.

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