Developer

3 Questions: HTTP compression speeds page delivery, cuts costs

Are you wasting bandwidth by not using HTTP compression? Read what the COO of a top software company has to say.


By Ken Hardin

With Joseph Lima, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Product Development for Port80 Software. Recently, Port80 claimed that top corporate sites—including Intel, Dillard's, and Western Wireless—are wasting vast amounts of bandwidth and slowing page delivery by not using HTTP compression.

This interview originally appeared in the IT Business Edge weekly report on Maximizing IT Investments. To see a complete listing of IT Business Edge weekly reports or sign up for this free technology intelligence agent, visit http://www.itbusinessedge.com.

Question: How do you determine how much bandwidth is being wasted?

Lima: It's actually pretty objective. If you request the various parts of a Web page you can get those pieces downloaded and apply a standard algorithm used in HTTP compression to those pieces browsers can decompress, which are generally the text types and some of the application types such as Java scripts. Simply apply those algorithms exactly as they would be applied at run time by a server-side process such as our tool.

Question: Is HTTP compression difficult for the IT department?

Lima: It's not difficult compared to other kinds of acceleration or bandwidth-saving type strategies. Among various kinds of Web acceleration strategies, HTTP compression is by and large cheap and low impact. You don't have to change a lot of things; don't have to pay a lot of money. HTTP compression [also] can be used in a Web services context, companies exchanging business information server-to-server may be able to use compression in that context.

Question: What types of companies are using HTTP compression?

Lima: It turns out we have the whole range—a number of Fortune 500 companies...and everything down to mom-and-pop hosting vendors, small businesses—the whole range [including] midsize firms. It's hard to generalize, but the smaller customers seem to be more interested in saving pure bandwidth; they want to lower their bills. Larger customers are interested in the acceleration effect. Say they have a brand new app on 25 servers, they want it to run as fast as it can. As a rule, the bigger the company the more they want to see the speed. These are two different problems: One can be seen in hard numbers, the other side is more perceptual—a user having an issue with the Web site.

Editor's Note: Here is a great technical breakdown of HTTP compression.

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