A need for speed: Appliances improve delivery of Web-based apps

Application delivery controllers -- also called appliances -- are a great way to speed things up.

At Subaru Canada, executives are not only focused on the performance of the vehicles they sell, but also on the performance of the company's website. The ever-increasing amount of rich media, video and other assets available to customers through Web-based applications and databases has put pressure on the IT team to find new ways to hasten information delivery.

"Customers aren't just looking for quality and breadth in the vehicle and company information we offer via the Web; they want speed. How quickly they can get at manuals, video, specs and other data is a large part of customer satisfaction," says George Hamin, director of e-business and information systems at Subaru Canada, which supports 86 licensed Subaru dealers.

Hamin says that goal becomes particularly challenging when new vehicles are introduced. That's when customers scramble to the Toronto-based company's website to use all of its multimedia information sources, including customizable vehicle views, short webcasts and price lists.

A need for speed

During those peak times, upwards of 306,000 visitors access the site each month, viewing almost 2 million Web pages. "You've got people requesting and downloading 10MB owner's manuals and streaming 100Mbit/sec. videos. That's a lot different than simply serving up 65KB JPEG images of the cars," Hamin says.

To ensure optimal performance at all times, Hamin first decided to move all of the videos to YouTube and stream them from there. That significantly reduced workload demands on the server, the network and the rest of the infrastructure. But it didn't solve all of his problems, because the site is laden with other rich-media content and has interactive tools that customers use to compare vehicles, find dealers and retrieve parts and service information.

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