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An Introduction to Novell's Internet Caching System

Articles and Tips: article

01 Jul 1999

This AppNote is adapted from the Product Flyer and other documents found at the Novell ICS Web site.

Are your users tired of wasting precious time waiting for Web-based content to be displayed? Internet caching is the answer, and Novell has the fastest, most convenient solution of them all.


Today, Internet users and providers are grappling with the constant issues of limited scalability, diminishing speed, bandwidth, and congestion. Solutions range from possible software and hardware upgrades to physically expanding the network topology. Unfortunately, the expense and disruption that such solutions require make their use prohibitive.

Tomorrow, these concerns may balloon from mere issues of irritation to basic issues of survival. As the business of information and product sales moves to the Web, consumers will move from slower, cumbersome, congested sites to faster, secure, and friendlier sites. For those whose storefront is the Web, lost customers equals lost revenue.

If the thought of lost revenue is one headache you want to avoid, now is the time to take a close look at the Novell Internet Caching System (ICS). ICS is a scalable, plug-and-accelerate appliance available for license by Novell OEMs. With its new cache object file system, Novell ICS enables content publishers, ISPs, and enterprises to implement high-performance, content-rich storefronts to attract new customers, increase buyer satisfaction, and drive new revenue opportunities. Novell ICS dramatically improves the speed and efficiency of delivering Internet content to employees, business partners, and customers within corporate intranets and extranets as well as across the Internet. It delivers an unmatched performance foundation for e-business.

This AppNote provides an overview of the benefits and features that come from implementing Novell ICS.

For more information on Novell's Internet Caching System, visit the product home page at:

The Caching Revolution

Internet caching accelerates the performance of Web servers, speeds access to Web-based information, and lowers network telecommunications costs. These systems store recently requested Web pages in memory or on a local hard disk so they can be displayed quickly if requested again in a short period of time. Internet caches offer a diverse set of benefits such as the acceleration of existing Web servers, replacing existing and cumbersome file mirroring schemes, and significantly enhancing the performance of Web browsers over dial-up modem connections.

Novell ICS can accelerate any Web site up to ten times the performance of common Web servers, host over 100,000 persistent connections, and dramatically reduce the hassle and expense of scaling traffic across multiple Web servers. The product can be quickly and easily implemented in less than 10 minutes within NetWare, UNIX, Cisco, or Windows NT-based enterprise or ISP networks.

Benefits and Features of Novell ICS

The Novell Internet Caching System appliance architecture offers the following benefits and features.

Performance and Scalability. Integration of a new high-performance, scalable Cache Object Store with leading-edge fault tolerance capabilities (disk cloning, disk mirroring, and cache clustering) provides a solution that scales up to the needs of global enterprises and ISPs. This allows companies to optimize bandwidth and accommodate new Internet-based applications.

Reliability and Availability. ICS features hot-swappable drives, which may be removed, added, or become inoperable without affecting the reliability of the caching system. In fact, ICS will continue to run even when all hard drives are removed.

Price/Performance. Novell ICS is optimized for speed on Intel platforms. In a test recently conducted by the National Laboratory of Applied Network Research (NLANR), the Novell ICS runing on Dell hardware produced results of 1,500 requests per second. This represents the best single-system performance ever measured by NLANR. This demonstrates the performance and scalability advantages of Novell ICS appliances from Dell and other leading hardware vendors.

Because of its architecture, performance, and price, Novell ICS enables infrastructure managers, Web administrators, and ISPs to deploy caching based on benefit, not cost. Unlike competing solutions, Novell ICS can be deployed everywhere, from branch offices to network operation centers.

Ease of Installation and Management. Novell ICS's plug-and-accelerate architecture can be installed in Cisco, UNIX, NT, or other switch and router environments in less than 10 minutes. Compaq and Dell will embrace Novell's new ICS software with appliance-like PC systems they manufacture, and then sell the resulting systems as caching appliances. ICS installs and operates just like a caching appliance: no previous familiarity with NetWare or other Novell products is required. ICS also contains the ability for over-the-wire upgrades, so as product feature enhancements are made they can be applied to the appliance directly over the network adapter.

ICS is easily administered from any location via standard management interfaces (Browser, Telnet, FTP and Serial Connection). Novell ICS also supports SNMP for easy integration into management consoles.

Value to Mixed Environments. ICS provides a caching solution applicable to any environment. It provides an open standards-based architecture that reduces overall bandwidth consumption, while leveraging the existing infrastructure. Advanced capabilities like native and Layer 4 switch transparent proxy and WCCP support will allow Novell ICS to work at the edge of any network.

URL Filtering and Usage Monitoring. Novell ICS includes support for URL filtering and blocking, and browser-based monitoring and logging of usage data and statistics.

Disk Performance and ICS

One of the biggest challenges in ICS is disk performance (or more precisely, object storage performance). Earlier Novell caches were built on top of the NetWare file system, which is not optimized for the specific task of Web object storage. With ICS, Novell has implemented an optimized object store in which Web objects and the requirements of a cache are implemented in the design.

Included in this design is disk management, since the operation of any Internet cache can be limited by disk performance. Today's drives can perform approximately 100 disk operations (seeks/reads) per second. The speed is limited by the time it takes the heads to move back and forth across the platter surfaces. In addition to file content, the disk stores data that identifies which parts of files are populated with data and which are blank. It also stores how the files are organized logically into a folder hierarchy and who has access or modification rights.

Disk speed is even more important in storing and retrieving Web objects. In an optimized Web object store, cached objects are stored in a way that makes retrieval as efficient as possible, requiring at most one disk operation. In addition to eliminating unnecessary file system complexity, additional optimizations can be done. For example, related objects can be stored together in a single disk block. This increases the probability that when one object is retrieved, some of the other objects about to be requested will also be retrieved in the same disk operation. These will be available in memory when requested without requiring any additional disk operations.

These optimizations minimize the average number of disk operations per object retrieve or store and have a significant impact on overall cache system performance.

Independent Test Results

Due to the growth in the Web caching marketplace over the last two years, there has been a need to provide customers a standard way to compare competitive cache solutions. To alleviate this problem, NLANR developed a freely available high-performance Web cache benchmark called Web Polygraph. Polygraph specifies a number of important workload parameters such as a real-world document hit ratio, non-cacheable content, realistic object sizes and server-side delays.

Specific measurements called out by the Web Polygraph in the NLANR report include the following:

Response Time. This is a measure of how quickly the cache can respond to a request for a Web page. The cache solutions were tested to see how quickly they could respond to requests under light to very heavy workloads. While other systems showed degradation of response time under a heavy load, Novell ICS response time did not change significantly as the load was increased. This behavior indicates that customers can rely on Novell ICS for predictable and reliable Web cache performance.

Price vs. Performance. This is a measure of the cost of the entire system divided by the actual performance in terms of requests per second served. Both of Novell's submissions performed very well at significantly lower prices than other vendors' solutions.

These Web polygraph results, combined with ICS's clustering capabilities, indicate that Novell, along with its OEM partners, is providing a new definition of cache scalability that businesses of all sizes can afford.

For details on the Web Polygraph test, as well as the official report from the first NLANR Web Cache Bake-Off, visit:

Industry Endorsements of Novell ICS

Several leading industry vendors have endorsed Novell ICS as the premier caching solution for ISPs and enterprise customers.

Vendor Endorsements

  • Alteon Networks: "With the Internet, fast enough never is. Though vendor partnerships are important, customers really care about keeping their Web sites up and their users happy. Novell and Alteon Networks are both driven by this fact and are combining our respective Internet caching and Layer 4 switching products to deliver one of the most powerful solutions available to scale and speed busy Web sites." "Bart Burstein, Vice President of Business Development

  • Compaq Computer Corporation: "Compaq is pleased to announce their support of Novell Internet Caching System. This is another step in the long relationship between Novell and Compaq. Today Compaq is the platform of choice for a majority of Novell customers, and we believe Novell Internet Caching System will help strengthen that position in the future." "John Young, Director of Appliance and Communications Servers

  • Dell: "Dell has taken a number of significant steps to position itself for the substantial growth set to occur in the computer appliance market. A range of companies from large corporations to small businesses and Internet service providers can benefit from the increased performance, relatively low cost, and ease of administration that Internet caching appliances provide." "Michael Lambert, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Systems Group

  • Foundry Networks: "As one of the leading providers of transparent cache switches, Foundry Networks understands the need for a high performance cache appliance solution such as Novell's Internet Caching System. Foundry and Novell have jointly produced a mechanism that enables Foundry to effectively monitor the availability of the Internet Caching System. Integration such as this further enhances the value of caching for companies doing business on the Web." "Ken Cheng, Vice President, Product Development and Program Management

  • Intel Corporation: "As content publishers, enterprises and ISPs implement complex performance intensive Web sites, the need for caching as a performance foundation becomes even more critical. Integration of high-performance Intel server platforms -- particularly Pentium III Xeon processor-based servers -- coupled with Novell's Internet Caching System further enhances productivity for companies doing business on the Web." "Bill Raleigh, Director of Marketing, Enterprise Server Group

  • Log-on Data Corporation: "We're very excited to partner with Novell's Internet Caching System to support URL filtering and blocking. With the rapid growth of Internet sites, inappropriate content has become an issue for Internet users. By utilizing this filtering feature, the Novell Internet Caching System provides users with the choice to block or not to block objectionable Internet sites." "George Shih, President

  • Mirror Image Internet: "We're pleased that Novell chose the Mirror Image Central Cache Connection to enable its advanced Internet caching solution. By offering non-stop access to our central cache servers worldwide, Novell's ICS customers can achieve high performance web content delivery, without the wait." "David Wu, President and CEO

  • N2H2: "N2H2 is proud to be working with an industry leader like Novell. The integration of Novell ICS and N2H2's Internet Filtering Solution provides the enterprise and education audiences with a cost-effective way to use filtering to access a more productive Internet. Novell was able to see that the increase in network traffic and performance-intensive Web sites has created a greater need for accelerated caching solutions, and they provided a solution with ICS." "Peter Nickerson, President and CEO

  • SkyCache: "SkyCache is very excited with the announcement of Novell's Internet Caching System. The price/performance points we're expecting to see are sound. We're looking forward to work with Novell in providing an optimized high-performance caching solution with the SkyCache cache turbo-charging service for ISPs and Enterprise customers." "Doug Mohney, Director of Marketing

Contribution to Internet2

In addition, Novell recently announced the donation of ten Novell ICS-based Compaq caching applicance servers to the Internet2 (I2) project. This is a joint effort of university, government, and industry partners building the next generation of the Internet. Just as today's Internet arose from the academic and federal research networks of the 1980s, the I2 project is helping to develop and test the next generation of Internet technologies in a pre-commercial setting.

The ten donated Compaq caching server appliances runing Novell ICS will be deployed as part of I2's Distributed Storage Initiative (I2-DSI). The I2-DSI project will allow replication of content across multiple servers, and provide users with transparent access to that content at their chosen cost/performance point. Once integrated with the Novell ICS and Compaq's caching server applicances, the I2 project will generate important feedback to help Novell and Compaq refine and develop future caching technology.

For more information about Internet2, visit:

Availability of Novell ICS

Novell ICS is a licensable technology that will be sold exclusively through Novell's OEM partners. These OEM partners will provide integrated, optimized hardware configurations designed for reliability, ease of installation, and minimal post-installation management. Pricing and availability for OEM Internet Caching Systems will be announced by Novell OEM licensees.

* Originally published in Novell AppNotes


The origin of this information may be internal or external to Novell. While Novell makes all reasonable efforts to verify this information, Novell does not make explicit or implied claims to its validity.

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