Servers Warp's 2063 Application Accelerator Is a Dynamic Performer

Warp’s 2063 Application Accelerator Is a Dynamic Performer




Caching appliances are steadily becoming more available, but few of
them can handle dynamic content. The Warp Solutions 2063 Application
Acceleration Appliance can, and also works with Oracle databases to
ensure that the cache is updated when changes are made to the
database.

It carries a premium pricetag, but Warp Solutions’ 2063 Application Acceleration Appliance can deal with dynamic content and requires no reconfiguration of your Web servers or network topology, while racking up 300% performance increases.

The 2063 is a 2u (3.5-inch) rack-mount appliance with dual 2.8GHz Xeon
processors, 4GB of RAM, two 10/100/1000 NICs, one 10/100 NIC, two 34GB
Ultra 160 SCSI drives, and redundant power supplies.

While most caching appliances act either as routers or proxy servers,
the 2063 uses a plug-in on each Web server to determine which content
should be cached, and which needs to be renewed. It operates on the
same network as the Web servers, requiring no reconfiguration of the
Web servers or network topology, unlike the router or proxy model. In
the event Web servers on your network are not supported with
plug-ins, or that you want to cache other types of content such as Web
services, the 2063 can also operate in a proxy mode, which preserves
the ability to cache dynamic content but does require changes in the
network topology.

The 2063 normally caches all content, and determines which content
should be refreshed based on input from the plug-in and a rules file
maintained on the 2063. Plug-ins are available for Apache 1.3.x on
Solaris, Linux or BSD, IIS 4.x and 5.x on Windows NT and 2000, and
Netscape Enterprise Web Server 3.x & 4.x and iPlanet 6.x on Solaris.

The database bridge is the specialized software that connects to
Oracle back-end databases, identifying items that have changed and
renewing the cached items. It uses an Oracle script that creates two
specialized tables and a procedure that the 2063 can use to find
changes in the database. The bridge is run on the 2063 and doesn’t
require any specialized software or plug-ins once the script is run to
create the tables. The tables are maintained automatically on the
2063.

Configuration of the 2063 is fairly complex. The initial setup,
creating the IP networking information for the 2063 and the admin
interface, is done through a serial terminal. The rest of the
configuration can be performed through the web interface or through
the command line interface via telnet or the serial terminal.

After the device is configured, a rules file must be created, using
the supplied rules editor application that runs on either Windows or
Linux. Creating the rules file is well documented and fairly
straightforward. The rules file is an XML document that must be
uploaded to the 2063. The file can also be created manually with an
XML or text editor if desired. Once the rules file is uploaded to the
2063, the plug-in must be installed on the web server, and a
configuration file for the plug-in edited to reflect the IP address of
the 2063.

For our tests, we set up an IIS Web server running on Windows 2000 and
an Oracle database and created a small Web site that pulled catalog
items from the database. While the 2063 currently supports only Oracle
databases, Warp Solutions says their next version, due in May, will be
database-agnostic.

In our tests, response times from the Web server with the 2063 enabled
were two to five times better than without it, depending on the number
of users in the test. Average throughput increased by over
300%. Making changes in the database did trigger a refresh of the
appropriate cached pages on the 2063, and personalized content was
appropriate to individual users.

The 2063 can rewrite embedded personalized links on cached pages with
a current user value so that personalized content is presented
properly. As long as the content is specified in the URL, the content
will be cached and delivered whenever a specific search is called, for
example, http://www.testsite.com/tools/catalog.asp?search=gadget.

The increase in performance we’d expect in real-world applications
would depend on the application – for instance, a personalized portal
site with different content for every user would see little
benefit. However, if the content is aggregated from static pages,
there will be some benefit, and according to Warp Solutions,
performance increases of up to 600 percent have been noted by some of
their customers.

The 2063 supports an active/active failover configuration, load
balancing and SSL, as well as SNMP, so that enterprise monitoring
applications can gather performance data from it. If a refresh of
content is triggered by a change in the database or in dynamic
content, the 2063 can be set to hold the previous content until the
new content is cached, to ensure that some content is delivered,
rather than an error message. A refresh of content can also be
triggered by a refresh request from a client browser, or if a timer
expires.

While the current version of the 2063 supports only Oracle databases,
the next version, due in April, will be database-agnostic. If you’re
using an Oracle database, and a supported Web server, and if your Web
site’s dynamic data is amenable to caching, the 2063 is well worth
investigating.

Platforms: Supported Web servers are Apache on Linux or BSD, IIS on
Windows 2000, or Netscape, Apache or iPlanet on Solaris. The rules
file creation utility runs on Windows 98 or 2000 or Linux.

Pricing starts at $80,000 per unit.

Vendor home page: www.warpsolutions.com

Product’s home page: www.warpsolutions.com/products/index.html

Overall rating: 5

Pros:

  • Caches dynamic content as well as static content.
  • Detects changes in back-end Oracle databases.
  • Can be deployed without changing the existing network architecture.

Cons:

  • Fairly expensive.
  • Database support is currently limited to Oracle databases.

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