Stampede’s Web Performance Software Goes to Market
November 2, 2004 Dan Burger
As more companies migrate to Web-based applications, the realities of high costs and mediocre performance become apparent. Much of the performance drain is related to bandwidth and network issues. Naturally, the speed at which business-critical applications are delivered has an impact on productivity, and correspondingly the bottom line costs. But the issue of performance is measured in both application speed and the timeframe to implement a Web-based system. Complexity can be a resource hog on the Web and on the implementation schedule.
Obviously, faster is better. But it comes with a price. It factors into not only application delivery, but also relates to response times and server scalability. Advancements in content compression, streaming, image transformation, encryption, and caching play a role in the enhancement of application delivery. If you can increase speed and decrease complexity, you’re on the right track.
That’s where Stampede Technologies thinks it is with WebRider, a Web acceleration product that’s compatible with any Web-enabled application. We first wrote about WebRider back in February (see “Stampede to Expand Web App Performance Product Line”).
Stampede has had a long and successful business relationship with Lotus building a variety of performance enhancing products. Those products were compatible exclusively with Microsoft NT and IBM OS/400 platforms. That technology became the foundation for WebRider; however, Stampede has gone to an open-standards approach and built WebRider to be used with XML, J2EE, and .NET. It gains this wider foundation by using SuSE Linux 64-bit processing for the core of this appliance-based product. This makes it easily adaptable to various workloads and well-suited for the future. It is already certified for compatibility with the entire IBM eServer line. Users need to know very little about Linux to install WebRider, Stampede president Gordon Dorworth says. “It’s a 10-minute, wizard-based installation process. An understanding of network parameters covers the details. After installation WebRider is managed through a browser.”
WebRider integrates with enterprise and collaboration applications such as PeopleSoft, Plumtree, WebSphere Portal Server, IBM Team Workplace, Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Outlook Web Access, Domino Web Access, and IBM Lotus Workplace.
Dorworth explains that WebRider is the first in a series of enterprise-level Web performance solutions and enhancements that his company has on the planning table for the next 18-months. The WebRider product will likely be enhanced with more deployment options, more certified hardware options, and increased throughput capabilities. Dorworth says the product line strategy will “introduce solutions that will further embrace XML and Service Oriented Architecture. Things like XML and RFID will ‘balloon up’ the data stream. We are in a good position to take advantage of these technologies. We will be able to reduce the burden on application servers.”
WebRider’s primary features include bidirectional compression, cache differencing, and HTTP header compression. Each of these contributes to the reduction of network, bandwidth, and storage loads. To demonstrate the focus on reducing storage burdens, Dorworth points out that WebRider has 20 GB of cache, which will support 10,000 users in a cache-differencing mode. And by taking over such functions as SSL encryption, GZIP compression, and TCP connection management, WebRider allows the offloading of enterprise servers so CPU power can be devoted to more important procedures.
The configuration and management of WebRider is easy and fairly straightforward using a Web browser over HTTPS. It supports SNMP system standards for providing management information, TCP, and other statistics.
Dorworth points to a benchmark report, produced by Stampede and IBM, that demonstrates the potential of WebRider. The benchmark is based a single user accessing IBM Team Workplace, running on a Web server that performed GZIP compression while being accessed by a browser over SSL. It also includes multiple-user settings.
The scenarios show WebRider improving application response time by a factor of between two and 10 times. Download and upload times were also improved by the same amount. The variances are attributable to the type of file attachments and the degree of compression that could be used on the data that was being transferred, realizing that some data is incompressible. The report also points out variances in performance gains that reflect changes in the number of users, with greater performance gains realized when the network was “congested” with multiple users–an illustration that bandwidth is being reduced. Not surprisingly, Stampede is proud to cite the results of its own benchmarking. One indicator that Dorworth emphasizes as a noted cost savings factor is the reduction of TCP sessions required to complete a specific workload. It dropped from 459 to five.
WebRider is designed to monitor Web traffic and generate a number of browser-accessible throughput reports related to performance, including XML-based reports and bandwidth-savings reports. It also has automatic log (connection, traffic, and exception logging) and database log archiving.
For the iSeries customer, WebRider is a front-end processor for critical Web-based applications that need to be accessed via a browser. Bob Evans Farms, a food product and restaurant company, is an early adopter that fits this iSeries model. Bob Evans Farms trains its employees online and also runs its inventory using applications that are front-ended by WebRider. The company reports substantial performance gains attributable to WebRider.
In addition to the performance improvements, WebRider allows Bob Evans Farms to offload applications from the iSeries, which results in a savings based on not needing additional application servers, not needing additional WebSphere software, and not needing to activate more partitions on its iSeries.
Dorworth says customers are realizing the potential for savings and the capability for more scalable applications within their existing infrastructure. In his view, getting better performance with fewer application servers is a message he is happy to deliver to prospective customers.
WebRider is available now. It can be purchased as a software-only solution, or Stampede can pre-install the application on an IBM eServer and ship the integrated software-hardware solution. Price quotes are based on license and configuration choices, but in most cases the pricing ranges between $35,000 and $50,000.