Open Source

Varnish Extends Web Acceleration Solution

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines  |  August 01, 2011

The company that Facebook and Twitter (News - Alert) use to help ensure high performance for their services has unveiled a new release of its caching solution and some other new initiatives surrounding it.

Varnish Software’s latest web accelerator, Varnish Cache 3.0, has module support, which allows business and application logic – which can determine such things as what content to serve to what user, for example – to reside in the caching layer of the network.

“The module support is the distinguishing feature in this release,” says Varnish CEO Per Buer, who attributes some of the success of Firefox to the fact that it too supports modules.

Varnish Cache 3.0 also can compress content before storing it in cache, meaning faster load times, better cache efficiency and reduced bandwidth requirements.

And this release includes what Varnish says is rudimentary support for HTTP progressive streaming. Full streaming support will be added to the product in the fourth quarter.

Buer says the HTTP protocol that powers the web today is starting to power almost everything else as well. In a couple of years, whenever you’re watching VoD or live content it will probably also start to be pushed through HTTP, he adds, so this effort “piggybacks on HTTP.”

Varnish Software, an open source company, is also launching some activities related to its web acceleration solution. In an effort to strengthen its community of users, the company is launching a repository where Varnish Cache users can share modules.

The company also has forged a partnership with cloud management platform provider RightScale Inc. to deliver a cloud-based version of its solution.

That steps up the competition between Varnish and Akamai (News - Alert), which the former company considers its closest competitor.

Buer says the Varnish solution can increase the speed of a website by a factor of 10 to 300 times, and can result in average bandwidth cost savings of 10 to 25 percent.

Web acceleration, always an important area, has become a particularly hot topic lately. In addition to CDNs like Akamai and web acceleration specialists like Varnish, some of the large telecom equipment outfits are also getting in on the act.

For example, Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) Ventures recently unveiled a managed service called AppGlide Video Analytics that gathers, correlates and analyzes information on the network so service providers can improve the user experience; collect hard data in an effort to appeal to advertisers and content companies to put their content on these service provider networks; and understand the performance that their own CDN partners are delivering.

Mark “Buck” Peterson, general manager of Alcatel-Lucent Ventures, a technology company and business incubator under Bell Labs (News - Alert), says service providers could use this on-net CDN internally to improve the user experience related to their own content, or they could offer it as a service to advertisers (13 percent of videos watched online are advertisements, according to Peterson), other content companies, or over-the-top content aggregators.

AppGlide Video Analytics, which runs on Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud, is available for trial now. The company declined to provide pricing, but said that it will charge service providers for AppGlide Video Analytics on a per subscriber basis.

The unveiling of AppGlide Video Analytics followed by about three months the news that Akamai and Ericsson have joined forces. In February at Mobile World Congress the companies announced they are developing software that will enable Ericsson gear to interface with a policy control solution that ties into the Akamai CDN.

That will allow service providers like the telephone companies to cache popular traffic closer to customers – and within the wireless network. And that will accelerate content delivery, allowing service providers to not only offer a better customer experience, but to justify their investment in the joint Akamai/Ericsson solutions by offering premium services to end users and content companies, and by enabling those network operators to use their network resources more efficiently.

Ericsson declined to specify which of its products will support the Akamai-related software, saying the software might run on existing or new Ericsson “nodes” in the network, or even on networks not based on Ericsson infrastructure. (Vestberg at one point mentioned the word “appliance”.)

Nonetheless, Akamai and Ericsson in February said they’d already tested the joint “cloud” solution, as they called it, with developers and expected to introduce it to service providers in the next six months, which would mean later this summer or in early fall.

Ericsson declined INTERNET TELEPHONY’s late May/early June requests to provide an update on this effort. That may have something to do with the fact that Ericsson just announced its plans to buy Telcordia (News - Alert), which could potentially impact this offering.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi