We know that people like fast websites. So how do you speed yours up? Recently I’ve been having conversations with customers and my colleagues in the field about caching appliances, content delivery networks (CDNs), and web application optimization. What’s the best approach?

Caching appliances place the most commonly requested objects in a cache upstream of the origin web servers. Objects (like images, JavaScript files etc.) requested by browsers can be served straight from cache without ever hitting the backend servers.

CDN’s go a step further, they place commonly requested objects into multiple caches around the world with the aim to position the objects as near as possible to the browsers.

Web application Optimization solutions use a range of tools and techniques to deliver applications more effectively, by doing things like shrinking content and manipulating browser caches (and there I’ve just oversimplified the life’s work of a number of F5’ers, but this blog is all about trying to make things simple so bite me Dawn Parzych.)

After a long and technical debate I’ve decided it all comes down to a trip to a grocery store.

Hang with me readers, I’m 70% sure this is all going to make sense.

Caching appliances simply put the most common things you need at the edge of the parking lot. It’s all the same size as it was in the store, but it’s a little bit closer and you don’t clog up the aisles. You still have to head back to the store after a few hours to check your food is still in date. Good for the store, not so useful for you.

CDNs deliver your shopping most of the way home, but then charge the store every time you check your food is still fresh. Good for you, not so hot for the store who get faced with extra charges. Plus the shopping still takes up as much space as it did before.

Web application optimization tools (like Application Acceleration Manager) shrink the size of your shopping, remove the excess packaging you don’t need and then let you know when it’s out of date. More of your shopping stays fresh for longer and it can even make your drive home faster.

Just as I’ve tried to simplify some of the choices for web application acceleration, we’re shortly going to release a new reference architecture to make actually implementing web application optimization just as easy.