Product profile

Stampede Technologies' On Demand software client can boost user access to centralised web applications.

Mobile WAN optimisation finds clients

Wide area network (WAN) optimisation and Wide Area Files Services (WAFS) acceleration technology is commonly used by many organisations to deliver increased Internet and Intranet bandwidth at remote and branch offices.

Now, vendors like Stampede Technologies are employing the same caching, compression and traffic management techniques to speed up response times for users accessing centralised HTTP, SSL, AJAX, and XML enterprise data - customer relationship management (CRM), inventory, or field sales force applications, say - from a laptop PC and other mobile devices.

Application acceleration is especially useful for portable devices and mobile applications, because wireless, cellular and satellite networks deliver bandwidth far below the norm for wired broadband connections in remote workers' homes or hotel rooms. And the limited data capacity can adversely affect their productivity by slowing down and even preventing access to applications over the Web.

Stampede's Application Acceleration Series, the successor to the vendor's earlier WebRider 2.0 solution, uses a combination of a dedicated appliance based at the corporate data centre, and client software that is either downloaded automatically on demand, or manually installed prior to accessing the application.

The appliance itself comes in three different configurations, designed to deal with different volumes of user transactions. All three are based on an IBM System x3455s rack server using dual core 64-bit AMD Opteron processors, which features dual Gigabit Ethernet ports and runs the Suse Linux 10.0 operating system.

The entry-level configuration features a 2.6GHz processor, 1Gb RAM and an 80Gb SATA hard drive; the mid-range model a 2.8GHz CPU, 1Gb RAM and two 36Gb hot-swappable SCSI drives; and the high-end device a 2.6GHz CPU, 4GB RAM and an 80Gb SATA drive. Stampede also sells a software-only solution which can be installed on a buyer's existing appliance, providing it meets the necessary minimum specification.

The appliance can be used on its own to remove much of the processing burden from an organisation's Web servers and therefore increase application performance. It assumes responsibility for application firewalls; load balancing (the distribution of workloads across multiple Web application servers); SSL key and encryption processing; compression; image reduction to minimise bandwidth usage; and static caching that stores frequently accessed data.

The appliance also provides advanced TCP connection management. On WAN links plagued by high latency or congestion, each TCP and HTTP session handshake can slow up performance.

By keeping the TCP session open, the Stampede solution helps to reduce that congestion thereby speeding up application performance, although many IT managers will worry about the security of this approach. Integrated TurboStreaming technology also concatenates multiple TCP sessions or HTTP streams to handle the transmission of particularly large files.

A subset of these functions is added to PCs and other devices with the Stampede software client installed, most notably caching and compression to reduce the amount of data transmitted between the user and the Web application housed in the company data centre.

The client software works as a standard HTTP/HTTPS client from any Web browser, and can be installed on devices running Windows Mobile 5/6 and Linux as well as standard desktop operating systems.

It is downloaded to the user device as an Active-X control as soon as the user connects to the application, though for the moment only an Internet Explorer browser can be used in this way. Other browsers have to download and install the Stampede client before they access the application, removing the advantage of on-demand acceleration.

The application policy engine contained in the Stampede appliance dictates how content is cached and what types of traffic optimisation are available, with individual options configured when the policy is first created.

When multiple policies are managed using the inherited settings feature, a single policy change on a top-level policy makes all lower policies inherit the new setting, saving the administrator a lot of legwork by removing the necessity of altering each policy individually.

The client monitors all the Web traffic passing through the browser. If a request to access content included in the policy is detected, the request is sent to the data centre appliance which checks for cached or repeated content.

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