No quick answer to ASP slowdowns

Application service providers offer some distinct advantages: somebody else

manages your system, applications can be updated without a major investment,

and ASPs can offer greater security than your own computer system.

But ASPs suffer a major drawback. The services — which you rent and use

online — can be excruciatingly slow. So slow that it's possible for even

an average typist to make it hard for an application to keep up.

The problem usually isn't in the server where the word processor resides

or the terminal where the user types; it's the wires, cables or microwaves

that link the two.

The amount of traffic on the line, the kind of line and the distance the

signals need to travel can affect how fast the application works.

In an extreme example, the Navy hoped to link applications kept in shore-based

servers to terminals on deployed ships via satellite. Sailors soon discovered

that for signals to travel from the ground to a satellite and down to a

ship and then return the same way took so long that shore-based applications

were impractical.

Citrix Systems Inc., a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based ASP, may have come up

with a partial solution.

Mark Templeton, Citrix's chief executive officer, said his company has developed

a way to use a client terminal's memory temporarily while awaiting the arrival

of slow-moving information from the server hosting the application. Although

the system doesn't actually overcome the problem of delayed transmissions,

Templeton conceded, it makes the delays less obvious.

Speaking at the GovTech conference in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, Templeton

said Citrix would release more information about the company's lag-time

solution in several weeks.

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