Web Client Accelerators Evolve into Cloud Applications Acceleration

Brian Washburn

Brian Washburn

Summary Bullets:

  • The underlying caching and content acceleration concepts developed by turbo-charged dialup Internet services have found new life, addressing unpredictable wireless connectivity.
  • These tools had a low profile among enterprises until Sprint Cloud Optimizer, which improves the Microsoft Office 365 experience for roaming workers.

Anyone who has been following Internet trends in the past decade will likely remember web accelerators, which stretched the shelf life of dialup and low-speed broadband Internet access. These services were installed on desktop computers and used a combination of tricks – such as prefetching and caching content, compressing images and data, and optimizing TCP – to achieve a perceived fivefold or greater performance throughput. A similar grouping of caching and acceleration technologies launched the WAN optimization business, using dedicated devices at the customer premises.

A decade later, the constant connectivity needs of cloud services just might lead something of a revival of acceleration and optimization practices. Road warriors that rely on mobile connectivity cannot count on a consistent wireless broadband data experience everywhere they go, which puts a damper on Microsoft Office 365, a key cloud-hosted application. However, caching and acceleration clients such as Mobolize CacheFront and Centri Technology BitSmartCX use various techniques to reduce the amount of bandwidth needed to interact not just for Internet access, but also for cloud-based applications.

The Mobolize CacheFront client software, for example, caches Microsoft SharePoint files and Microsoft Office documents, letting traveling employees read and edit them while entirely offline. The client decides what documents to track and cache from a ‘Reading List’ that is synced as often as the employee specifies; additional content is also cached and can be ordered and/or searched. The application can also cache non-password protected web sites, and it has an array of additional caching control features.

Mobolize CacheFront may have remained an interesting side note, if not for the agreement it reached with Sprint to resell the service starting late in 2013 under the Sprint Cloud Optimizer brand name. Sprint has been offering free trials to its customers. In the months since it has launched the service, Sprint notes a fairly healthy conversion rate to paid corporate subscriptions, which cost a few dollars per client, per month. To date, the app supports Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8 operating systems. The other interesting news is that Mobolize added a CacheFront client for Android in June, which will extend the functionality of the client – including Microsoft Office 365 offline access – to a much larger range of mobile devices.

Meanwhile, Centri has not named specific big partners yet, but it has been working on trials directly with a number of wireless providers in Latin America. Here, Centri claims great interest to sell directly to service providers, on the basis of optimization techniques that reduce traffic loads on their wireless networks.

It all goes to show that concepts such as the old ‘turbo dialup Internet service’ do not go away just because the underlying technology gradually falls out of favor. Instead, these types of ideas continue to evolve and find new challenges to address and solve.

About Brian Washburn
Brian Washburn is Research Director for Network Services at Current Analysis. Brian tracks the technology and initiatives surrounding carrier Ethernet, IP-VPNs, optical networking and applications closely tied to high-performance networking.

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