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Web content optimization: A new approach to SharePoint optimization

Gina Narcisi

The WAN has had to contend with its fair share of bandwidth-hungry platforms and applications. As Web-based file sharing and business collaboration software platforms become richer,

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Web content optimization is a must for any multisite enterprise.

In particular, enterprises are interested in Microsoft SharePoint optimization technology. Many vendors offer WAN optimization technologies, which use protocol optimization, compression and deduplication to make WAN links more efficient, but none of these technologies address the inefficiencies of the HTML code that underlies Web-based enterprise applications.

Users are more remote from central data centers and are experiencing high latency with these data-intensive Web-based applications. Several vendors have introduced Web content optimization products that alter the way HTML is presented from a Web server to a browser, making Web-based applications more efficient. 

SharePoint optimization: Web content optimization comes to the aid of collaboration

Several vendors have introduced Web content optimization products -- including Strangeloop and Akamai, to make Web pages more efficient in how they communicate with browsers. Riverbed Technology joined this market with its recent acquisition of Aptimize

This technology also has potential for enterprise applications, particularly for SharePoint optimization. SharePoint -- a Web-based enterprise collaboration and file-sharing application -- has been notorious for overwhelming the WAN with requests for images and scripts, making round-trips from the server to the user, noted Andre Kindness, senior analyst for Forrester Research.

Riverbed's Web content optimization product -- Stingray Aptimizer -- is being leveraged to optimize content-rich collaboration applications like SharePoint and Salesforce across the WAN, said Naveen Prabhu, senior product manager for Riverbed.

"If a Web user logs into SharePoint from Starbucks or from home, they shouldn't have to wait to log in or for the page to load to start their work," Prabhu said. "Stingray Aptimizer is like a direct server extension for Microsoft Web services because it helps programs like SharePoint consume as little bandwidth as possible, and less bandwidth means easier downloading."

Stingray Aptimizer can help alleviate bandwidth concerns for the enterprise by consolidating the way files are sent over the WAN, as well as the number of visits to the server, Kindness noted. "The complex way the SharePoint interface was built takes a lot of time to transmit over a WAN -- there is a lot of latency back and forth."

Duke Corporate Education, a Durham, N.C.-based nonprofit support organization for Duke University, recently deployed Stingray Aptimizer for SharePoint optimization. More than half of the company, across four continents, uses the application.

SharePoint contains many objects that must be retrieved and dragged down to the browser for the page to be rendered to the user -- something that used to take time for overseas users who access SharePoint in Duke's North Carolina-based data center, said Eric Logeson, systems architect for Duke Corporate Education.

"[SharePoint] was very noticeably slow and clunky to users before Aptimizer," he said. "Aptimizer reduces the number of round trips the client browser takes to render a page from the SharePoint Web server."

Not only is the number of trips to the server decreased, but webpages are compressed, Logenson noted. "Aptimizer packages everything up to decrease the number of round trips necessary to go to the Web server to get the objects."

More on Web site optimization:

Akamai helps optimize Internet content

Web application performance: Testing and tips

Better user experience: How Web application load testing can help

Vendors rewriting HTML for better Web content optimization

Web content optimization: Bridging the two worlds of networking and application development

Web content optimization technologies are gaining traction in the industry as Web-based enterprise applications become more widespread and enterprise employees access these applications from remote offices. Vendors like Riverbed and Strangeloop are looking to bridge the disconnection between the networking and application development worlds, Kindness noted.

"There's been a longstanding problem that networkers and application developers don't understand each other's technology," he said. Developers often build heavily-detailed Web pages for a better user experience, but do not keep bandwidth concerns of the network in mind.

"There is a lot of uptake in the industry because so many applications are moving into a website environment," Kindness said. "[Users] are going to Web pages to use different applications -- not their desktop."

Load balancing and WAN acceleration vendors perform other kinds of software optimization to speed up Web-based applications, Kindness added. These companies, like F5 Networks, will probably add their own Web-content optimization features, he said. "Web interfaces have slightly unique differences from software, and these vendors have begun filling in the holes."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer.


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