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Cache beats back bandwidth blues

Today's breaking news
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Today's breaking news
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Some network administrators spend a lot of time monitoring Internet usage, setting firm rules and issuing threats when users grab more than their fair share of the pipes.

Steve Hosack, manager of worldwide networks at network vendor Adaptec, says that's a waste of time.

The majority of his employees use the Internet for work, and he says he'd only be asking for trouble if he tried to change people's habits.

Besides, he couldn't throttle Internet access - the company has a lot riding on it, especially considering the company extranet is becoming a wagon train for suppliers and customers.

To keep things moving smoothly, Hosack scrapped Netscape's proxy server in favor of a dedicated network appliance for caching.

Hosack started his caching search this past December, when he began beta-testing network appliances from CacheFlow, a 2-year-old start-up in Sunnyvale, Calif. Network appliances, such as CacheFlow 100 are self-contained units that do only one thing - cache Web traffic. CacheFlow 100, the company's smallest box, can store 2G bytes of data, comes with 128M bytes of memory and hooks up to a router or a switch at the edge of the network.

Hosack put CacheFlow boxes into production in March. Since then, "we never hit any level of traffic where performance went down - no matter what kind of load we put on it," he says. In addition to CacheFlow 100, he's using two CacheFlow 1000s, which are high-end, carrier-class boxes with 25G bytes of storage, 256M to 512M bytes of memory, with two to four 10/100M bit/sec Ethernet ports.

Another source of cache

While CacheFlow is pitching the fact that it does nothing but caching, Network Appliance is relying on the strength of its experience in building dedicated file servers.

That experience was one reason Glenn Newell, intranet architect at National Semiconductor, went with the older company. National Semiconductor has over a dozen NetApp file servers.

Like Adaptec, National Semiconductor used Netscape's proxy server before going dedicated. National Semiconductor tried several caching implementations in the firewall - he won't reveal details because of security - but "network performance actually went down when we tried to do any caching," he says.

Newell has had a better experience with the two Network Appliances' NetCache C230 boxes that now sit between each of his T-1 lines and a 10M bit/sec switch. Out of the box, he saw a 20% drop in bandwidth usage. And after fine-tuning it a bit (he says instructions for dealing with cookies were unclear), his savings shot up to 40%. Newell saw a dramatic decrease in the time it takes to view 40% to 60% of Web pages. NetCache C230 has up to 256M bytes of memory, up to 36G bytes of storage, Ethernet, FDDI or ATM connections, and starts at $16,555.

Network Appliance recently announced its second-generation of caching boxes, the NetApp C700 series, with Version 3.3 of the NetCache software. Network Appliances says the new line has twice the performance of the old line. NetApp 720s has 512M bytes of RAM, up to four 9G-byte disks and all flavors of Ethernet, FDDI and Copper Distributed Data Interface connections (no ATM). Pricing starts at $19,995.

RELATED LINKS

Contact Senior Editor Robin Schreier Hohman

CacheFlow Document Center
Caching primers and white papers.

Caching wards off Web access worries
A tech update. Network World, 6/29/98.

Enterprise caching: Smart or smoke?
Nolle analyzes the issue. Network World, 11/9/98.

Bandwidth hunger creates a Cache-22
Winn Schwartau looks at some caching proposals. Network World, 2/23/98.

Review: Proxy servers from Netscape and Microsoft
Network World, 2/9/98.


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