Speeding up SOAP

Apptimizer boosts Web-service performance with SOAP caching

COMPANIES GAUGING the ROI of adding Web services to their application-delivery mix must consider the oft-overlooked costs associated with increased network overhead and processing loads.

Although Web services may represent a boon for developers, their weighty text-based XML messages, which are many times larger than the payload they're responsible for carrying, demand opening, rewrapping, and pushing across highly distributed network paths. As SOAP requests and responses mount, processing and communications capabilities will quickly show their shortfall.

Aiming to reduce the friction in multitier application architectures, Chutney Technologies released its flagship product, Apptimizer HA (High Availability) 4.1 for SOAP, which caches and reuses high-volume calls to data and programmatic objects.

Not limited to Web services, Apptimizer delivers a solid caching mechanism that can be exploited anywhere along the application fulfillment path, from the front-end Web edge to back-end business logic and databases.

By interpreting incoming requests and serving responses from its own cache, Apptimizer implements a Green Peace line of defense that mitigates processing redundancies and eases bandwidth consumption through recycling. The process further improves system response times.

In this latest version, Chutney advances Apptimizer's handling of cache look-ups, ergo cache-hit success rates, and introduces a SOAP engine that enables developers to extended the benefits of Apptimizer to Web services transactions.

On the downside, Apptimizer demands modification of existing code, a potentially precarious endeavor for live site logic that might initially relegate the solution to new development. Also, it could benefit from more intuitive facilities for cluster management and improved SOAP administration and monitoring tools.

But we were highly impressed with its overall capabilities and found that it offered a simplified tagging process that greatly assuages fears associated with slicing and dicing code.

We are able to issue Apptimizer a final score of Deploy, due in part to its newly added support for more development environments along with its modest security measures.

Chutney has a history in the content delivery niche. When we first looked at Version 3 of this product last year, formerly called Preloader, it was purely caching content for dynamic HTML delivery(see " Your way, right away on the Web "). Although the product has grown up, we were pleased to see its benefits and usability remained part and parcel of this release.

Installation of the Apptimizer engine, the server-side caching repository, as well as SOAP and API libraries, went off without a hitch, requiring little interaction beyond basic IP configuration.

Apptimizer is interoperable with most enterprise application servers, including BEA WebLogic, IBM WebSphere, Microsoft IIS, and Sun ONE (Open Net Environment). Installation of a single engine supports multiple servers and clusters simultaneously -- a consideration of note when examining pricing.

Fortifying Apptimizer's socket-based communications is SmartSocket technology from Talarian, now Tibco, which we weigh as a plus for guaranteeing reliability in real-time platforms such as this.

The Java-based administration interface offered a good vantage for centrally managing our server and cache farms. Although we would like to see Apptimizer grow to include more proactive server-administration tools, embracing performance tuning and alert messaging, or SNMP for example, we were able to easily perform basic operations on our clusters, such as replication and backup.

One of the most important considerations in the success of any caching solution is guaranteeing the freshness and reliability of data. Here, too, Apptimizer succeeds, offering a variety of ways to examine and manually set cache purge policies, in addition to the programmatic settings available through the API.

Most notable in this release is the addition of its SOAP Toolkit 1.1, which extends the solution's umbrella of efficiency to the Web services arena. Apptimizer supports both Apache and Microsoft SOAP with support for Microsoft SOAP 3 slated for updating in November.

SOAP objects and responses, as well as WSDL, now become cacheable entities replete with comparable methods of expiration, session control, and logging. The toolkit represents a good foray into a developing architecture, although we would have preferred to see better monitoring and administration tools specific to the SOAP engine, as well as inclusion of transport protocols other than HTTP.

Overall, we were pleased to see a simplified tagging process, with a new alternative to the somewhat convoluted buffered process previously compulsory for Java and ASP.

And Chutney continues to proffer new API libraries, extending the scope of its usefulness with the addition of C++, TCL (Tool Command Language), and ASP .Net libraries to the existing cadre already including Java, C, ASP/COM, and JSP.

Installation of an Apptimizer solution is best recommended in data-intensive installations, rather than strictly those of reduced computational cycles.

All told, Apptimizer provides a cost savings and speedier time to deployment than would development of a comparable in-house implementation.

For optimizing performance and scalability, while keeping costs in check, we recommend Chutney Apptimizer as a must-have solution for caching and Web services.