CacheFlow puts Web tech on GSA sked

The speed, reliability and security of the World Wide Web are becoming increasingly important as federal agencies put more information on the Internet and receive more information from it.

CacheFlow Inc. believes that the answer to all three necessities could come from a solution that has been around for years

local caching of commonly used data and files. Using a Web caching system, federal users can load Web pages to their desktops five to 10 times faster, and external users can see the same kind of performance improvement when accessing an agency's Web site, according to the company.

The end result is a much cheaper method of getting noticeable system improvements instead of the usually expensive proposition of increasing an agency's bandwidth connection to the Internet, said Dan Brigati, federal region director for CacheFlow.

The company recently partnered with federal reseller Marzik Inc., and all of the CacheFlow products are now available on Marzik's General Services Administration schedule contract.

Caching works because although content on the Web can change, the way people use the Internet usually does not.

"Commonly accepted numbers say that about 80 percent of Web traffic is for commonly accessed pages," said Sam O'Daniel, federal account manager for CacheFlow.

Web pages are made up of many files, so every time users request a page from a Web server they are making several requests for several different pieces of data. The CacheFlow system, running the company's CacheOS, retain the most commonly used files, so more user requests stop at the device and do not have to go all the way to the other Web server to be satisfied.

Stopping most of the requests at the CacheFlow device also means that federal users' computers do not have to be constantly connected to the Internet, making it much less likely that a hacker would be able to get into their hard drives through the connection even through a firewall, O'Daniel said.

CacheFlow developed the CacheOS specifically for this purpose and built in several enhancements to the basic caching process that most cache servers and appliances use.

Usually, caching devices refresh the data from Web servers only when the administrator or user requests it. CacheOS uses a technology developed by the company called adaptive asynchronous refresh that will work independently of user requests to learn what the most popular objects and pages are and to check those servers for fresh content.

Because the purpose of a cache is to fill it so it is used as much as possible, another issue that arises is how to decide what to delete. Most other devices allow administrators to set files to be deleted after a certain period of time.

But CacheOS, building on its refresh capability, bases its deletion policy on the popularity of files. A file that is extremely popular, like Netscape Communication Corp.'s logo, is never deleted until it changes, no matter how long it has been stored in the cache, O'Daniel said.

All of these features are ones that are currently offered only by CacheFlow, making the company a significant presence in this market, said Pu Xiang, an analyst at market research firm Dataquest Inc.

"CacheFlow is a very good company, we really think they have a good direction," Xiang said. "They probably have the best product in the market right now."

The speed factor also works the other way around when users use an agency's Web site. An agency can put in place a CacheFlow device outside its firewall to ensure security that will handle the majority of the user requests to its Web server.

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