Novell adds flash to caching server

Novell officials recently revealed that the second edition of the company’s caching server software will take advantage of directory services technologies and feature support for bandwidth-intensive multimedia streaming.

With Version 2.0 of its Internet Caching System (ICS) scheduled to ship early next year, Novell is looking to build on the early success of its original platform-independent Web caching server. The first edition of the software is already being bundled with servers from companies such as Dell and Compaq. Novell said at NetWorld+Interop ’99 Atlanta that IBM will ship ICS on its Netfinity servers.

ICS, which has been around since March, caches frequently used Web content so end users can retrieve that content more quickly and efficiently. The software can be configured to speed access to public or private Web servers. In a caching bake-off sponsored by the National Laboratory for Applied Network last March, Novell’s ICS installed on Dell hardware finished second to Inktomi’s Traffic Server by handling up to 1,500 requests per second with a mean response time of 1.4 to 1.7 seconds.

While it might be surprising that the initial version of ICS didn’t support Novell Directory Services (NDS), that was all part of the company’s plan to position the product as vendor-neutral. Version 2.0 offers support for NDS and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol.

A directory-enabled caching server will be of particular use to companies managing intranets and extranets, says Peter Christy, vice-president of the Internet Research Group in San Jose, Calif. “The issue of who is accessing what will become much more important, and the directory is the mechanism by which caches will be able to determine what rights individuals have,” he said.

The Utah school system, which uses ICS 1.0 to cache Internet content for 500,000 students and teachers, has a need for the directory support. “Directory services would allow individual schools to filter out objectionable sites,” says Don Porter, senior network administrator for UtahLink, a state-owned ISP for Utah’s public- and higher-education system. “For example, you could have a more restrictive policy for elementary students than for high school students.”

The other big addition to ICS 2.0 is support for multimedia streaming. The ability to cache RealAudio/Video, QuickTime, MP3 and other streaming data types–rather than having it clog up corporate backbone networks–could let companies quickly and efficiently serve up training videos, hold on-line company meetings or provide pre- and post sales information and support to customers.

Christy says streaming video overwhelms many corporate networks that are sized for little more than e-mail.

Novell declined to say how much Version 2.0 will cost, but a typical ICS 1.0 system costs between US$5,000 and US$10,000. ICS is sold through Novell’s hardware partners, such as Compaq, Dell and IBM.