Stories by Tom Pullar-Strecker, The Dominion Post

Citrix deal will help Aptimize optimise

United States technology giant Citrix has entered into a partnership with Wellington start-up Aptimize and will help sell its software that is designed to make websites and intranets load more quickly. Aptimize founder Ed Robinson said the Intergen spinoff had signed up about 150 customers, almost all of which are based overseas, including Microsoft, Google, Disney and several insurance companies. New Zealand customers include Trade Me and Fisher and Paykel Healthcare. The software typically costs $20,000 to $40,000. The company has secured a number of testimonials, including one from United States top-500 internet retailer BuyNowOnline, which attributed a 3.33 per cent rise in sales to Aptimize. But Mr Robinson said marketing and distributing the software had been a drag on growth and the Citrix deal should give it a "jump start". "You can't just leap on a plane and go everywhere," he said. Citrix is a major supplier of load balancing systems, which are used by large organisations to efficiently serve up web pages from multiple web servers. Aptimize has optimised its software to work with Citrix's NetScaler load balancing software and Citrix will now promote the software as a companion product. Aptimize works by merging static images, JavaScript and formating files included within webpages into a smaller number of larger files, which can then be compressed and cached in the browser. That reduces the number of requests that need to flow to and from servers hosting websites and users' computers when pages are loading. The software can make webpages load two to four times more quickly. BuyOnlineNow enjoyed a 69 per cent gain. Website owners can manually optimise their sites, but Mr Robinson said Aptimize was designed to automate what can be a "fairly tedious" process. It can also perform tasks that are difficult to do manually, such as adjusting the optimisation routines for different browsers. "We are often doing installations in under an hour, and if you get a developer to optimise your site, they haven't even finished eating their sandwich within an hour." Google's decision in April to take into account load times when determining search engine rankings has given the company a boost. Mr Robinson said corporates were using Aptimize on their intranets as they reaped direct savings in staff time. Aptimize employs 10 staff, and the deal with Citrix was an important step in the company's development, he said. "It is the first step to making our product part of the waterworks." Aptimize is also considering partnering with specialist hosting companies. The San Francisco Chronicle, reporting research from Aptimize, said the capacity of the average internet connection had increased by more than 74 times since 1996 in the United States as people migrated from dial-up to broadband, but over the same period, the size of the website had swelled 54 times as the site was loaded up with more pictures and graphics – demonstrating how a good proportion of those gains could be eaten up. A new electronic file format for photographs being promoted by Google has the potential to cut internet traffic by a quarter, reducing congestion on the web. Google said its proposed format, WebP, was 40 per cent more efficient than jpeg files, into which pictures are usually encoded. It estimated that 65 per cent of the traffic on the web consists of images. The format is expected to take time to catch on, given digital cameras use the jpeg format.

Gen-i growth a highlight of Telecom results

Gen-I, Chorus and AAPT have each delivered EBITDA growth for Telecom’s full year ended June. Overall, Telecom reported a 4.5 percent fall in its bottom line bottom line full year net profit to $380 million, with revenue down 6.5 percent to $5.27 billion. The company highlighted its earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) for the year to June which edged down 0.2 percent on the previous financial year to $1.76b. "Telecom has halted the significant earnings decline of the previous two years and achieved notable improvements in the trajectory of each of its businesses," Telecom chief executive Paul Reynolds says. The fall in revenue mainly reflected continued competitive and price pressure in the legacy fixed line businesses, Telecom says. "Chorus, Gen-i and AAPT have each delivered ebitda growth for the year, and the turnaround in the Retail business is on track for FY11," Reynolds says. For the three months to June net earnings fell to $42m from $78m a year earlier. Telecom was plagued by outages to its XT network during the period.

Microsoft audits a fact of life

Microsoft has denied speculation that it is taking a more aggressive stance auditing Kiwi businesses that it suspects of using more Microsoft software than they have licences for. Legal counsel Waldo Kuipers declined to comment on rumours that one large listed company had agreed to pay Microsoft $900,000 following an audit a year ago. Software licensing for businesses operates on a "trust model", he says. "Customers are contractually obliged to order according to what they use." Microsoft does not have any technical means of knowing how many staff may be using a particular program. The company can however take note if firms appear to be under-reporting their use of Microsoft software, based on discussions with the customer and their size and growth. The Kiwi arm of Microsoft has audited customers for at least the past seven years, he said. "I wouldn't say there has been a particular increase in that activity. "There are certainly more reviews in some years than in others, but that seems to be more a matter of chance rather than something driven by policy changes. Just like an electricity company checks the meter to see what's been used, it's a natural part of a commercial software licensing business." There are not a large number of audits, he says. "I could count the number on one hand each year. "I don't think we would start a process like that unless we had already been through a discussion and generally the reason it gets done is the customer also wants to be sure of what the exact position is." Licensing agreements usually let suppliers remove customers' volume licensing discounts if they were found to be using more software than they were paying for, he says. He would not say how much Microsoft New Zealand had collected in such "penalties" since it began ordering audits. Kuipers says there is no evidence the economic downturn has made New Zealand businesses less honest or slower to order extra licences that they require. "I think it has been an issue in some countries where the financial downturn has hit harder, but I wouldn't say it has been an issue locally." Under-reporting could also simply be the result of poor record-keeping by the customer. He does not believe hardware virtualisation and the greater variety of proprietary and free software means it is now harder for customers to fulfil their obligations. "Manual record-keeping would require more effort than 10 years ago, but the software tools that customers have at their disposal now to centrally manage and automatically track software use on a corporate network have improved dramatically and make it easier than it has ever been."