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Improving Internet Access Speed on Multiplied SLED 10 Systems

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Omni Technology Solutions Inc.

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Posted: 9 Nov 2006

Multiplied SLED 10 customers are saving 80-90% on their Linux desktop deployment and management costs compared to stand-alone Microsoft desktops. The following article explains how to enhance users' Internet access speed when deploying Multiplied SLED 10 systems.

It is a generally accepted best practice to enhance Internet browsing speed by configuring browsers on individual workstations to query a local proxy server for web content. It is well understood that by allowing the client to cache content in the local workstation hard drive, performance is increased and the user browsing experience is enhanced. That's all fine and good for stand-alone desktop deployments. But how might this be different for a Multiplied SLED 10 deployment?

What is different on a Multiplied Linux Desktop system is that there can be up to 10 users sharing the same hardware. Depending on the performance of the hard disk channel, allowing each of those users to cache many session-based small files to the "local" hard drive can cause a potential hard disk read/write performance bottleneck because the hard drive is shared.

So, how do you get around this potential bottleneck? Well, not only do we "get around the bottleneck," we go one step further -- we significantly enhance Internet browsing on a Multiplied SLED system.

The default user profile for FireFox (the default browser for SLED) uses an individual session browser cache. Each time the user visits a site, the browser automatically reads and writes many very small files to the "local" hard drive and uses those files for faster access if they have not been changed since the last visit to the site. By default, this process works the same way on a Multiplied SLED system. With a Multiplie SLED system, information for user sessions is not shared -- but the hard drive is. This increases the number of read and write operations to the single hard drive by 10! Ten times the hard disk activity -- how can we remove that bottleneck?

The answer is simple -- implement a local proxy cache on the host PC running the Linux Desktop Multiplier. Well, actually, it is a bit more complicated than that. Here's how it works:

  1. Login as 'root' and install and configure the Squid proxy server;
  2. Configure the proxy server as a transparent proxy;
  3. Start the Squid proxy server;
  4. Configure each user's FireFox options to:
    • set the proxy cache to 0 MB,
    • delete all existing proxy cache files, and
    • configure the browser connection settings (Tools > Options ... > General > Connection Settings) to "Auto-detect proxy settings for this network" or to set the manual proxy access and specify the appropriate IP address and port value. Because they are all configured to the same workstation, the default of port 8080 could be used.

What is the impact of these changes? When a user surfs the Internet using FireFox, the browser will check for a proxy. Instead of checking a user-based file cache, the browser checks the "shared" Squid proxy database cache. This increases the number of cached files that are found in the host workstation memory, and increases internet access speed because the users are accessing a shared cache. Users are not writing individual copies of the files onto the hard disk. In addition, because Squid caches files in an indexed database, the read/write access is enhanced, CPU and disk access are decreased and the number of read/write operations is decreased. Instead of 10 independent concurrent sets of many small file read - write requests, the Squid proxy service uses its shared database process to increase performance.

In the case of Linux computer labs, corporate environments or with public access computers where multiple Multiplied systems are in use, a multiplied proxy server configuration strategy can improve Internet access speed. By configuring the multiple Squid proxy cache servers running on each Multiplied system to act as a as peer-to-peer cache or in a hierarchical cache for the other systems, cached web sites are serviced at LAN speed rather than over your WAN connection to a centrally configured proxy server.

Click here for more information about how the Desktop Multiplier for SLED strategy can save 80-90% when compared to Microsoft stand-alone computers:

For more information on installing and configuring the Squid proxy server provided with SLED 10 or openSUSE 10.x, see:

Additional Multiplied SLED 10 Resources

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