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Why WebMux™? - An Executive Summary


The advance of the Internet and Intranet in the last few years has made many fundamental changes to cooperative and enterprise computing both within and without for companies large and small alike.

Just a few years ago few companies even had a web site, and those web sites often contained only minimal information. But all that has changed now. Few companies can afford not to have a web presence these days. The web has become an indispensable marketing and sales tool. As e-commerce progresses, the role of the web site becomes ever more important.

Just as important is to make information available via the web to both customers and vendors. Companies are increasingly relying on web and other IP based applications to distribute information within the enterprise. In the past, information distribution either relied on limited proprietary IT systems or on nothing at all. In today's highly competitive global market place, fast and accurate worldwide information distributions have become a key to success.

Since IP based applications such as web, e-mail and FTP have taken such an important role within a corporation, it is vital to reduce downtime to a minimum. Any down time means lower productivity and lost business opportunity. While the immediate monetary cost of downtime can indeed be very significant, the loss of goodwill from customers can be even longer lasting and more costly.

High Performance

An IP based application server such as a web server has a fixed load capacity. When the load exceeds certain level, performance begins to degrade. One solution is to upgrade the web server to meet the demand. But many companies have found out that they simply could not keep up the upgrade pace with Internet usage demands. Furthermore, the law of diminishing return applies. The cost often goes up exponentially compared to linear performance gain. On the other hand, the trade-in value of the existing server is often very low.

without load balancing

Another solution is to use multiple web servers and a style simple round-robin of load balancing. In this solution a number of severs are grouped together and act as one server to the clients. One of the servers often runs a control program as traffic cop with other servers running associated programs which communicate with the controlling server. This control program processes all incoming requests from the clients and distributes the requests to other servers in a round-robin fashion. The attractiveness of this solution is it makes incremental upgrade possible with a cost/performance ratio closer to linear. On the other hand, the additional software overhead degrades each server to some extent and the speed of routing requests is poor. Furthermore, this type of simple control and associated software solution cannot address more complex IP applications that require persistent connections between the client and the server. Reliability is poor, as we will discuss in the next section.

The best solution is to employ CAI Networks' WebMux™ for IP based server load balancing. In this solution WebMux acts as the traffic cop. Let's use a web server as an example. WebMux processes all the incoming web page requests from clients. It then routes the requests to a group of web servers or a web farm. High performances is achieved by using a dedicated high speed hardware platform working in tandem with uniquely efficient algorithms that provide not only ultra high speed IP routing to the web farms but also meet the high demands of today's Internet applications.

load balancing

High Availability

Simply put, high availability means minimum down time. To most companies, uptime is more important than performance. It is not hard to imagine that if a company's web site is on one server, when that server goes down so goes the web presence.

The reliability is not necessary assured by using a simple web farm. In the last section, the performance of using a simple round-robin software solution on each of the web farm servers was discussed. At a glance this solution seems to offer at least some degree of fault tolerance if not performance. Upon closer examination however one will realize there is not much of fault tolerance afforded by this solution. The setup of the web farm using this solution is often complex and prone to crash due to improper setup. The additional control and associated software create their own resource demand that may cause a system crash under certain load condition. Furthermore, in some instances one or more services of a particular server may be down but the server itself is still running, and a simple control program may not be able to detect the underlying failure and keep routing requests to the failed server. Finally, if the server on which the control software resides crashes, the whole farm will crash along with the main server.

WebMux on the other hand uses a dedicated hardware platform with an optimized algorithm that does not contain unnecessary overhead, software interaction or resource contention. If a server within the web farm fails either in whole or in part, WebMux will switch the failed server out of the web farm and alert the system operator.

The Webmux can provide an additional level of fault tolerant protection by installing a secondary WebMux. In the very unlikely event that the primary WebMux fails, a secondary WebMux will take over, thereby maintaining the system's presence.

load balancing

Ease of Use

Installing new IT equipment often produces high anxiety, not to mention a headache when the installation goes wrong. WebMux is designed to not only make the installation process straightforward but also to have minimal system downtime during the process. For extra peace of mind, one day on-site installation is included with WebMux Pro models.

The cost of maintaining today's IT equipment and software is getting higher along with the complexity. WebMux's intelligent console provides easy yet secure access via browser from anywhere in the world for configuration and checking system status. Unlike other products, special skills are not required.

In any setup, constant manual interaction not only adds to the cost but also increases possible human errors. In an installation with a primary and secondary WebMux, the secondary WebMux will auto configure itself with the primary's configuration. While this feature may sound simple it is very important. Some competing products require manual configuration to update the secondary. If the operator forgets to update configuration files, the secondary will not work properly and render the whole setup useless.

To further ensure a worry free operation, our professional support staff is just a phone call away. Optional services include additional one year 7x24 toll-free support and 24 hour express exchange of a failed device.

High Security

The open nature of the Internet often invites hackers. The potential treats of loss due to unlawful attack cannot be underestimated. WebMux offers firewall functions that intercept and reject attack attempts. While some competing products offer only very standalone limited firewall functions or none at all, WebMux acts as a sophisticated firewall. Firewall products with similar functionality can easily cost as much as WebMux itself.

Total Cost of Ownership

Yet, despite all the advantages we have discussed, a company does not need WebMux to have a web presence and/or other IP applications. Even though WebMux is the most cost effective high performance solution available, it still costs from about $5,000 up to $20,000 plus the cost of the redundant servers. And, yes, there are "cheaper" or even "free" software solutions out there and besides, it is human nature not to spend seemingly "unnecessary" money.

If the above are all true, why should any company want to spend resources to employ WebMux as part of their total IT solution? The answer is very simple. The true costs of the "alternative" solutions are often hidden.

Take a "do nothing" approach as example. What is the cost of the corporate web going down for a day? The recent high profile incidents of some popular Internet sites were down for various period of time. The measurable cost alone is already several times the cost of WebMux, not to mention the unmeasurable cost of lost goodwill and public embarrassment. And there is the cost of having people on duty or on call 7x24. With WebMux, immediate action may not be needed in most of the cases, thus saving the peace of mind of the system operator and over time expense to the company.

How about the "cheap" and "free" solutions? Well, nothing is really "free". Yes, some OS include a simple round-robin type of load balancing. Others have made similar software solutions available. But developing advanced algorithms, adding firewall function, tunning the performance to fit your needs, developing and testing hardware that can last for a long time do cost money. Hire consultant will cost more money than buy a WebMux with free support and three year warranty. In addition, since using hardware similar to web server boxes trying to balance, reliability and fault tolerance are extremely poor. A barely better than "do nothing" solution can end up just as costly, besides providing a false sense of security.

Ok, so using the same argument shouldn't every one just go for the big bucks and big name solution? Better performance and better reliability, one should definitely go for them. But simply throwing good money away for a big name will not buy performance and reliability. The WebMux family is not only based on an innovative design, but also uses highest quality components to assure the highest possible reliability. Take the cooling fan for example, a small part indeed. But it can wrack havoc if a cheap fan fails in a very short time. WebMux uses a high quality German made fan with hardened ball bearings. Unlike some high priced competing products that use a hard disk inside, WebMux is diskless which improves both performance and more importantly reliability several fold.

So what then is the true cost of ownershipn? Since it will save money are other resources for a corporation in more ways than one, it really should be considered as a net cash flow generator that will pay for itself several times over.

Want to know more? Please give us a call at (714) 550-0901. We will be more than happy to discuss your requirements and suggest the best solution for you.


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