FDA cache serves hungry surfers

The Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

hosts a World Wide Web site that logged about 5.6 million hits in March.

With that kind of workload, the FDA needed to tune its server for maximum

performance. For help, the agency turned to a Web cache from Cacheflow Inc.

as soon as the technology became available a year and a half ago.

"The cache allows one to provide a very good response time, without

having to have the resources on the server [that would otherwise be required],"

said Laurence Dusold, chief, telecommunications and scientific computer

support. "It is one way of providing faster response time without having

to increase bandwidth."

The center posts mostly documents on nutrition that are not dynamically

updated, so the FDA's content is ideal for using a cache. "Food safety documents

tend to have larger than 50 percent static HTML pages that lend themselves

to caching," said Dusold.

FDA's cache appliance is equipped with 16G of disk space and about 400M of

RAM, and is configured with redundant power supplies and hot-swappable disk

drives for maximum reliability.

The center also enjoys the security benefits provided by the cache.

"In addition to the normal firewalls, the cache provides an additional proxy

layer," said Dusold. "Since the cache is a hardware appliance it makes it

a little less vulnerable," he said. Obviously, no security solution is all-encompassing,

but every little bit helps, he added.

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