NetScaler Aims to Speed Up E-Comm

FRAMINGHAM (04/28/2000) - The ability to extend Web-acceleration capabilities from static to dynamic content is the promise of a device that will debut next week at NetWorld+Interop Las Vegas from a startup called NetScaler Inc.

Dubbed WebScaler, the device works with existing cache and load-balancing hardware to speed access to Web content and Web servers for e-commerce sites.

What's interesting about the product is that unlike cache devices, which serve up frequently accessed static content, WebScaler can also speed delivery of dynamic requests such as transactions for sales or pages constructed on the fly. For businesses, that means less waiting time for customers on their sites, and more efficient use of Web servers.

The devices typically sit behind a router and a switch, and in front of a Web server farm. They can also have cache devices attached to them, because they are able to route static requests to those devices. For dynamic requests, WebScaler multiplexes incoming user requests and tags them after serving an initial "hello" handshake. WebScaler then sets up a continuous, or persistent, connection to a Web server, allowing all object requests for content to continually flow to the Web server. Those requests are then sent back to WebScaler and routed back to the requesting user's PC over the Internet, with WebScaler also handling the "goodbye" handshake needed to close the transaction. Handshaking and content delivery traditionally takes place on the Web server in bits and pieces, making the process time-consuming and CPU-intensive. Because WebScaler handles the handshakes and sets up a persistent connection, the time it takes to deliver dynamic content is greatly reduced.

At Cashsurfers, WebScaler devices are already being used in front of some of the company's Web servers. Chief Technology Officer Noah Mapstead says the servers with WebScalers in front of them can handle twice as many requests per second - about 240, vs. the 120 without the devices. Cashsurfers handles between 30 million and 40 million requests per day for dynamic content - ads for sites that users click on to browse for products. "It's a dynamic process and our rack space for Web servers is limited, so if we are able to double their capacity, it's a heck of a deal," Mapstead says.

Dave Schwartz, an analyst DataQuest in Stamford, Conn., says WebScaler is addressing an important e-commerce need - higher performance and quality of experience for end users. Schwartz says NetScaler is first to market with a product that addresses both static and dynamic content requests.

WebScaler will cost about $20,000 when it ships June 8.

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