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Last Updated: Monday, 24 May, 2004, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Surfing speed gets hardware help
Space Shuttle lifts off, AP
Special hardware can help break net speed limits
The problem with the internet is that the technology at its heart often gets in the way of the modern uses people are putting it to.

Tricks that worked well in the early days do not do so well when scaled up to deal with the millions that now regularly use the internet.

One small technology firm called NetScaler has come up with hardware that can remove some of the delays caused by the net's ageing ways of working.

NetScaler founder B V Jagadeesh said the net's core protocol, called HTTP, is responsible for introducing the delays.

Cutting computers

This protocol demands that almost every object on a webpage, be it text, graphics, page counters, tables or anything else, is effectively fetched separately.

When the program running across the net is more complex, such as a remote worker setting up a secure link back to the head office network, the overhead can be much worse.

Every time one of these different webpage elements is downloaded, the computers sending and receiving go through a routine to check that everything worked as it should.

"For every object it is a separate connection," said Mr Jagadeesh, "40-50 objects on a webpage means 40-50 connections."

This has meant, said Mr Jagadeesh, that many firms serving large numbers of users have bought lots of servers just to cope with the error checking overhead that TCP/IP imposes.

Google logo, Google
Google images arrive via NetScaler hardware
To overcome this problem, the hardware produced by NetScaler sits in front of a server and keeps open all connections to parts of pages that browsers want to look at.

As a result any request for a particular page that comes in does not have to be recreated by the server. It will be ready and made quickly available to that user.

"Instead of opening and closing thousands of connections you only have a few," said Mr Jagadeesh.

The result is that firms can use far fewer computers to serve the same amount of users.

One of NetScaler's biggest customers is Google, which has bought 70 pairs of NetScaler boxes to handle image search requests.

As well as helping net firms cope with large amounts of users, Mr Jagadeesh, said many of its customers use them to make programs staff use internally more widely available.

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