Internet May Lag Under Future Performance Demands

While the Internet has shown some performance improvements in recent years, the Web remains slow for conducting serious transactional business, according to a study by Northeast Consulting Resources, Inc (NCRI).

The study, which was based on data from Internet performance measurement firm Keynote Systems Inc. (KEYN), found that current trends indicate the Web may not satisfactorily support performance-dependent applications at the start of the 21st century.

According to NCRI senior analyst Peter Sevcik, improvements in technology since 1995 have enabled a Web page of about twice the size to load in half the time. The Internet has been doubling overall Web delivery ability every 24 months. However, Sevcik claims this performance may not be sustainable over the next 24 months because overall delay within the Internet has become significantly higher.

Round-trip delay has increased from 240 milliseconds to about 370 milliseconds due primarily to the number of routers required to reach an Internet destination. At this rate, in the year 2003, network delays can be anticipated to deteriorate Internet performance to about nine seconds.

Poor performance will have serious implications for services offered by application service providers (ASPs) that will likely perform much better on a private network.

Sevcik’s analysis of the data indicates that overall Internet performance since 1995 improved from 12 seconds to six seconds, despite an 80 percent increase in the size of basic business Web pages, from 50,000 bytes to 90,000 bytes and 120 percent increase in page complexity.

Sevcik compared recent results from Keynote’s Business 40 Internet Performance Index (KB40) from October 1998 to July 1999 to an earlier study of Internet performance done in 1995.

“It is clear that the World Wide Web won’t fulfill its promise unless the right design decisions are made,” Sevcik said. “Router hops are at the core of the delay problem. You can’t run a fast network with the complexity and number of router hops typical of the current infrastructure. The service providers need to start thinking about how to streamline their access network topologies and the Internet in general, and the task won’t be trivial. The current rate of improvement will start to slide backwards, putting the whole idea of Internet-hosted applications in serious jeopardy.”

Factors affecting the complexity of Web-page downloads are primarily hidden, Sevcik said. They can include DNS look-ups, server re-direction, protocol support, number and performance of advertising servers, complex screen layouts, and content on additional servers. The faster a Web page is implemented, the more complex it is likely to be because less care and attention will be given to performance-enhancing design considerations.

“Today, caching and content distribution is the only practical way to reduce network delay,” Sevcik said.

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