Why do application delivery vendors talk about both? Aren’t they the same thing?

In general, acceleration implies that something will be done to the application: caching, compression, etc… The actual behavior of the spedometer application is changed such that the client may need to participate in the acceleration. Acceleration is technically speaking disruptive in the sense that it requires participation of client, intermediary, and often the server. This generally takes a form that leverages existing standards, a la caching, such that no changes need be made to clients or servers, but the behavior of the application and its data may be changed.

Optimization focuses on improving the performance of the network stack. TCP multiplexing, de-duplication, eliminating TCP retransmissions, and high-performing network stacks on intermediate devices improve the performance of applications by affecting improvements on the stack in such a way that the client is not aware of those changes and need not recognize them. Optimization is (or at least should be) transparent to both the client and the server.

The goal of optimization is to improve the performance of the networking stack, while the goal of acceleration is to improve the performance of the application. As such the former is rarely specific to the application, while the latter is almost always specific in its implementation and policies to applications. The good news is that both result in improvements in the performance of applications.

But they are different, and that’s why vendors use both terms in the same sentence to describe their offerings.


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