Condenser Speeds Dial-Up

FineGround software requires no code changes, puts jump in Web responses, but results vary widely.

Faster web site response for dial-up users is the probable payoff for content providers that install Condenser 3.0 from FineGround Networks Inc.

Condenser 3.0, which shipped last month, sits next to the origin Web server and tracks page requests, serving up only the changes between a reference "base" page and new content provided by the server. During eWeek Labs tests, Condenser 3.0 served up tiny delta files as small as 7KB to 12KB, instead of sending 47KB files that were the size of the entire page. This resulted in faster page response over a 56K-bps, dial-up connection. No appreciable benefit was seen when content was provided over a LAN.

New in this version is FlashForward object acceleration, which is a big improvement for sites that have multitudes of static image files. Instead of forcing a lot of back-and-forth between the browser and the origin server to check the "freshness" of the object, FlashForward uses tags embedded automatically by Condenser 3.0.

During tests, version information was efficiently transmitted in a single, compressed document. This added pepper to the responses we got—only a second or two compared with 6 or more seconds for pages handled without Condenser 3.0.

The Condenser 3.0 license costs $50,000 per processor—a reasonable price for an acceleration tool—and runs on Linux or Solaris. We conducted tests on a Pentium III-equipped system running Red Hat Inc.s Linux Version 7.1.

Condenser 3.0 is unique among accelerator technologies that weve tested in that it identifies new content within a Web page instead of finding ways to serve the whole page faster. But that doesnt mean other acceleration tools shouldnt be considered. A flotilla of Web acceleration tools, from edge appliances to proxy caches to database performance tools, is also available. Look for further eWeek Labs coverage of these products in future issues.

Although we recommend IT managers consider newcomer FineGround, our tests showed that Condenser 3.0 yields widely varying results based on the content being served. We found the greatest speed improvements when the Web page contained lots of personalized information such as stock quotes, account information or order status forms. We used a new Condenser 3.0 utility to get an idea of the performance improvement we should expect from various Web pages (see screen).

Although Condenser 3.0 works fine on static content, products that do the job better and cost less are available from companies such as CacheFlow Technologies Inc.

In addition, if Condenser 3.0 is overwhelmed with requests, it quietly forwards requests to the origin server without becoming a single point of failure in the network.