Web application performance poses a particular challenge to network managers trying to improve performance over WANs without buying multiple products to get the job done. Or so says a June white paper published by research firm Meta Group with sponsorship by Web application acceleration vendor FineGround Networks.In the paper aptly titled "Accelerating Web Application Performance," Meta Program Director Peter Firstbrook details the issues surrounding Web application performance and the IT tools needed to accelerate performance over the wide area to remote locations and users. In the paper, he discusses the challenges of accelerating applications over WANs and includes perspective on FineGround's Condenser, a centrally deployed reverse proxy product that promises to dynamically optimize Web application performance."Although there are many ultimate sources of performance problems, Web application performance issues can be categorized into three major bottleneck areas: bandwidth, latency and server constraints," the report states.Ninety percent of application performance issues fall into one of the three buckets, Meta says.The report states that applications pushing significant amounts of data to a browser through relatively narrow or shared networks are "typically constrained by the amount of available bandwidth."Server latency is a problem because "transactional applications and dynamically generated Web pages are likely to be limited by the speed of the transaction engine itself," according to Meta. That means server-bound applications have to wait for pages to generate. And Web servers sometimes need time to process other protocols, such as TCP or SSL.The last common problem, network latency, comes into play across WANs more so than LANs because of the multiple round-trips data packets must make between servers and clients to, say, build a Web page on a remote user's desktop, according to Meta.Vendors such as FineGround, as well as Packeteer, Peribit, Expand Networks, NetScaler, Pivia and others have attempted to address these issues with products that offer one or more of several technologies. According to Meta, technologies to address Web application performance generally fall into six categories: compression; caching (static or dynamic); traffic management or quality of service; protocol optimization; resource service offloading or offloading SSL processing; and scaling up or out, which means adding servers or bandwidth.While there are multiple products from multiple vendors offering technologies to address Web application performance, Firstbrook says in this paper that simply buying a product often does not address a user's needs. And he goes on to detail how a network manager should go about choosing a product. In the next edition of this newsletter, I will discuss how Meta advises network managers to pick the right performance acceleration product for their network.