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Caching to beat World Wide Wait

Sun Microsystems and Network Appliance are the latest companies to stumble onto a relatively simple solution to the vexing "World Wide Wait" problem.

Surf globally, cache locally.

Sun Microsystems (SUNW) and Network Appliance (NTAP) are the latest companies to stumble onto a relatively simple solution to the vexing "World Wide Wait" problem.

The two systems companies join a diverse group of players hoping to make some hay in the market for cache systems. Others include networking giant Cisco Systems, chip monolith Intel, and network software stalwart Novell.

As reported by CNET's NEWS.COM in October, companies are releasing cache-based systems as a means to solve the problem of slow response times to Web-based data across the Net as well as within corporate intranets.

Sun introduced the latest addition to its application-specific Netra line of server hardware and accompanying software. The latest release, called the Netra Proxy Cache, is targeted at service providers and corporate enterprise networks that want to make sure users gain rapid access to frequently visited Web sites, according to company executives.

The base Netra Proxy Cache model costs $13,995. An enhanced model that offers load-balancing capabilities across an array of proxy cache systems costs $18,995 per system. Both models will ship in January.

In the Intel-based server systems space, Novell executives believe they could offer a cheap alternative through use of the company's BorderManager FastCache software. Shipment of the caching tool was announced today at fall Internet World '97, with the software priced at $995 per server.

Novell executives said discussions with third-party hardware companies such as Compaq Computer are ongoing to provide dedicated "cache server" bundles.

"We have tremendous interest among the hardware partners," Patrick Harr, a product manager at Novell, said. "We are actively working with several key vendors."

Novell, like other entrants in the cache systems space, realizes the goals are simple. "Caching is all about one thing: improving speed and lowering costs," Mike Dowling, a Novell marketing manager, said.

Network Appliance, a company that has reaped large rewards from its focus on systems that offer fast access to data, also released new systems dedicated to delivering Web pages quickly through a caching mechanism. Two models, the NetApp C230 and the C630, can offer access to 550 URLs per second and can support up to 8,000 connections via use of the company's NetCache software and optimized hardware.

Caching software allows Web sites to be stored close to the user so that every query does not result in a connection across the Net, which often results in slow response times.

For example, to offer better service to online customers, an Internet Service Provider could place several cache systems at regional sites in order to speed access to Web pages. By caching a Web page locally, a user does not have to rely on the response time of the often congested Net infrastructure to view a site they hit frequently, such as ESPN's SportsZone.

The boxes can be used as a single system or clustered together for large Web server installations. Both systems will be available this month, with the C230 starting at $16,550 and the C630 starting at $65,720.