NetScaler claims to have vastly increased Web speeds with its latest software upgrade. New compression technology comes complete with lab tests, although the results have since been questioned over their flawed methodologies.

The claim is that websites can be accessed up to 44 times faster than sites with no acceleration. This is achieved, the company claims, by using a TCP compression rather than HTTP compression. "There’s no-one else in this space at the moment, F5 is looking at it, but is not there yet," said Netscaler's European VP, Mark Edge.

"TCP provides a benefit over HTTPS in that simply not all applications run over HTTPS, for example, fat client e-mail, ERP, CRM applications. Equally there are hybrid applications like Oracle Financials that use an HTTPS session to launch an Oracle Java thin client (Jinitiator) which is both very bulky and runs over TCP. HTTPS compression offers absolutely no help here," he said.

AppCompress Extreme is supplied as a software upgrade for the NetScaler 9000 series appliances. The NetScaler hardware combines an Intel-based network appliance, which runs the AppCompress Extreme software, and a Layer 4-7 switch, offering a range of 10/100/1000Mbit/s ports. The company has launched an additional product: AppCompress MP providing users with the ability to compress both download and upload application traffic. The company claimed that this bi-directional facility was unique to NetScaler.

NetScaler said that its claims on access speeds had been verified by the Tolly Group who found that a standard webpage without any acceleration took 14 seconds to download while the same page took 0.3 seconds with AppCompress Extreme.

The results were questioned by Zeus Technology’s marketing VP Steve Palmer. "We did a labs test with IBM where we showed an increase in performance of more than a 1,000 times. It’s not something we publicised though as you can say what you want with statistics. But by setting the time to deliver a webpage at 14 seconds means that it’s not difficult to achieve any sort of increase."

The NetScaler technology works by compressing data at the server end, using the Gzip compression algorithm. On the client side, either a Java applet or an Active-X agent is downloaded on an end-user’s Web browser, which performs the unpacking of compressed data at the desktop.

But David Cartwright, managing director of consultancy Korana and Techworld’s consultant editor questioned the rationale of NetScaler’s thinking. "I can't help instinctively disliking the idea of having to use a client-side, proprietary application to achieve the compression."

And Zeus’s Palmer said he could understand why NetScaler did compression that way but thought that this compression could be achieved by routers, rather than through browser software.

The release from NetScaler is the first launch since Citrix acquired the company for $300 million. Edge said that the launch meant perfect sense for Citrix. "It offers users the opportunity to compress ICA in both directions," he said.

NetScaler’s AppCompress Extreme and MP software can be added to the vendors’ switches for $10,000, and will be available later this quarter.