A year ago, the expected download time for a 5-Mbyte building design file at architectural firm Ghafari Associates' branch offices was about three minutes. Now it takes 50 seconds the first time a file is downloaded and about two seconds for subsequent downloads.
It's not a drastic increase in bandwidth that has speeded download times, but application acceleration devices that enhance protocol efficiency and file caching for quick access after the first download.
When the Interop Las Vegas 2006 conference kicks off this week, there will be a din of announcements involving application acceleration. At least nine companies will unveil products to coincide with the show. It's not surprising, given the growing demand: Gartner expects sales of app acceleration products to grow almost 50% this year, from $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion.
People want applications and information to get to them fast. After plummeting in the last few years, prices for bandwidth have leveled off, and fiber can be prohibitively expensive. Companies now are turning to application accelerators for cost-effective answers. "I haven't seen this much interest in a technology in a long time," says Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala. "Every IT manager I talk to is interested in speeding up applications somehow."
Stampede Technologies, also focused on speeding up specific applications, last week unveiled its Web 2.0 Performance Series for browser-based XML and Ajax traffic. Ajax apps, which act like they're running locally on a PC, can eat up the network, says Gartner analyst Joe Skorupa. They "can have a huge impact on server and client loads," he says.
Though application acceleration has been around for almost a decade, the technology has become more sophisticated of late. Powerful chipsets have brought a plethora of advanced services to products, including caching, load balancing, protocol optimization, SSL decryption and acceleration, compression, and basic security threat management.
Frank Gillman, CTO at law firm Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis, says Riverbed Technology's Steelhead app acceleration appliances have been one of his best buys in years. After centralizing most of the firm's applications, latency was a problem. "There's nothing worse than talking to a client and saying, 'Well, Jim, let me get that to you,' and then sitting there whistling and waiting," Gillman says. "At the end of the day, you can have the best infrastructure in the world, but if people don't get what they need quickly, they're not going to be happy."
Wireless and security also will be among the areas of activity at Interop. Several companies will roll out Wi-Fi and network access control products.
Siemens and Avaya each will unveil service-oriented architecture strategies to simplify software development. Siemens has been developing its SOA strategy for the last two years and is working with IBM to embed voice applications and click-to-call features into IBM's WebSphere. Siemens envisions an environment where SOA is used throughout the communications industry. "That's where eventually we have to get to," says Scott Washburn, global portfolio manager for Siemens' enterprise communications group. "Otherwise, [communications] companies will never be as agile as we need them to be."