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.
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
- Caches dynamic content as well as static content.
- Detects changes in back-end Oracle databases.
- Can be deployed without changing the existing network architecture.
- Fairly expensive.
- Database support is currently limited to Oracle databases.