Specialist works to accelerate ASP.Net apps

* Strangeloop Networks’ new appliance speeds Microsoft ASP.Net and AJAX applications

Start-up Strangeloop Networks has built a business around speeding up Web applications developed on the Microsoft ASP.Net framework. Its flagship application acceleration appliance is designed to do the kind of optimization techniques that normally would be done in code, such as controlling ViewState (a mechanism for preserving a Web page as it travels between a server and browser).

Now that its beta tests are complete, Strangeloop is ready to ship its first product, the AS1000 Application Scaling Appliance. The Vancouver, B.C.-based company is displaying it at the Microsoft DevConnections conference going on this week in Las Vegas.

The AS1000 sits in-line between Web servers and the network (or traffic-management devices, if an enterprise has them). “It doesn’t require any change to the code on the application servers and no change to the infrastructure of your network. It sits behind a load balancer or application delivery controller,” explains Joshua Bixby, cofounder and senior vice president of product management at Strangeloop.

The appliance can automatically apply caching and data reduction treatments to make multipart pages load faster, reduce the load on servers and decrease bandwidth requirements. To deal with ViewState, for example, the AS1000 stores data related to maintaining session state in its network cache, which reduces response and request payloads.

“ViewState data is essentially baggage that is being sent from the server to you, on your browser, every single time a page is transacted. That data is not required on your browser. But it is required on the server when it comes back,” Bixby explains. ViewState can account for 30%, 50% or even as much at 70% of the size of a page, he says. By stripping out ViewState, the AS1000 can speed the time it takes to load a page.

“As a page is created and sent through, as the AS1000 sees it, we rip out all of the ViewState data at line speed and we replace it with a unique token,” Bixby says. “There are two obvious advantages of that. One, the page is smaller so it’s going to load significantly faster. Two, your bandwidth is going to be reduced.”

Bixby says now that Web pages aren’t the static, one-way communication vehicles they used to be, the challenge of application tuning is consuming too much of developers’ time. Today’s Web sites are dynamic. Pages are stitched together from database lookups and Web services, and content is regenerated every time a visitor reloads the page.

“It’s a very different animal. The AS1000 is very much geared toward ASP.Net and AJAX applications and, more importantly, applications that are inherently unpredictable, dynamic and changeable,” Bixby says.

By offloading optimization techniques to a dedicated appliance, developers can spend less time tuning application code and devote more time to building new features, Bixby says.

Strangeloop was founded in May 2006. The company earlier this year announced it received $11.5 million in venture funding from a private investment group.

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