Microsoft SharePoint could be a challenge for WAN optimization

* F5’s take on network, apps optimization

Today, we discuss F5’s perspective on network and application optimization, as described at two recent optimization seminars that Network World recently produced, and Jim moderated. Along with Cisco and Juniper, the other presenting vendors at the seminar, F5 has two different classes of solutions in the optimization space. One is targeted at accelerating the performance of Web-based applications and the other is targeted at accelerating the performance of WAN-based solutions where, as discussed in the last newsletter, WAN means virtually any wide-area connectivity other than the Internet.

In previous seminar tours, the presenting vendors spoke somewhat generically about their ability to accelerate the performance of major enterprise applications such as SAP and Oracle Financials. At this seminar tour, the vendors tended to be more specific and discussed the fact that they had done testing with the major software vendors. The F5 speaker certainly mentioned the relationship that F5 had with Oracle and SAP, but his presentation paid more attention to Microsoft SharePoint applications than any of the other speakers.

In case you are not familiar with SharePoint, the Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Evaluation Guide states, “Office SharePoint Server 2007 is an integrated suite of server applications that improves organizational effectiveness by providing comprehensive control over electronic content, accelerating shared business processes and facilitating better-informed decisions and information-sharing across boundaries.” Microsoft states that SharePoint 2007 was designed to utilize a service-oriented architecture and support interoperability standards such as XML and SOAP. Microsoft also states that as a result of these design decisions, it is easy to integrate SharePoint 2007 with existing business processes and applications. (Also, see Network World’s test of SharePoint 2007.)

To understand the relevance of SharePoint to the seminar attendees, Jim asked the audience to indicate whether they worked for a company that either already had adopted SharePoint or would likely adopt it over the next year. Roughly three quarters of the survey attendees raised their hands.

Given both Microsoft’s dominance of the desktop combined with the great interest in collaboration, it is not surprising that so many companies have already or will soon adopt SharePoint. These companies, however, may struggle to ensure acceptable performance of these applications when they are run over a WAN. That follows because while SharePoint 2007 was designed to be easily integrated with existing business processes and applications, it was not designed in such a way that it is easy to improve the performance of the application.

For example, most of the content is marked as private and noncacheable. In addition, in conjunction with SharePoint 2007, new versions of 2007 Microsoft Office System applications such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel will use a compressed XML document format termed Open XML. These documents cannot be further compressed or differenced by conventional means. The bottom line is that companies that are deploying SharePoint applications need to determine if those applications will run well over the WAN, and if not, what they can do to resolve the performance issues.

The next WAN newsletter will describe what Akamai had to say at the seminars. Network World will be producing similar seminars in Philadelphia on May 8 and in Atlanta on May 10. If you are in one of those areas, kindly plan to attend what should be another informative and highly interactive event.

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