Gear6 today released Web Cache in an effort to commercialize the Internet’s predominant (de facto, for Linux) distributed caching protocol, memcached. Every Top 20 web site not owned by Microsoft uses memcached (Facebook has almost 1,000 servers dedicated to its memcached tier) and 50-60 percent of all Alexa-ranked Top 10,000 sites use it to some degree, according to Joaquin Ruiz, EVP of products and corporate development at Gear6. With Web Cache, Gear6 is offering a turnkey solution that brings high availability to memcached, as well as significant capital and operating expenditure savings.
The savings come by way of Web Cache’s memory management layer, which lets the product access both DRAM and flash memory simultaneously without any performance degradation. DRAM is faster and pricier, while flash provides cheap memory in bulk. While most servers top off at about 64GB of RAM per unit, Ruiz said Web Cache servers start at around 200GB each, thanks to a “great amount of DRAM” and “an order of magnitude more flash.”
Fewer servers means less money spent on boxes and power. For example, instead of buying more servers, initial Web Cache customer MyYearBook.com was able to consolidate nearly 30 memcached servers down to six (the other two announced customers are Answers.com and Veoh). Ruiz claims Web Cache beta customers cut power costs by an average of about 70 percent, and that Web Cache appliances (which ship on industry-standard 1U dual quadcore Opteron servers loaded with the requisite software and memory, as well as professional support) cost less than traditional high-DRAM servers.
Distributed caching is critical to web site success because objects housed in-memory require far less time to load than do objects stored in a database. As Ruiz explained to me, “The issue becomes how many milliseconds…do you wait for the query to complete before your users get frustrated and [don't] use the service anymore.” By providing this capability for free, memcached has become an unsung hero of sorts, but Ruiz predicts that within the next year or two, “people will be talking about this distributed caching tier as a fundamental part of the…dynamic web stack.”
Clearly the folks running large web infrastructures understand the importance of memcached, but whether the general web population will stop overlooking the data caching layer remains to be seen. Of course, a larger commercial market would make avoidance more difficult. Gear6 now competes with Schooner’s new high-end appliance-based approach to memcached optimization, and Virident today announced its GreenCloud lineup of servers. The latter is very similar to Web Cache architecture-wise, and includes a product targeted at memcached.