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apt-cacher-ng attempts to achieve the same goals as related proxies - it acts as a proxy which is used by clients in the local network to share the data that has been downloaded. It monitors the state of packages and is capable of merging downloads of the same packages from different locations (real or simulated).
The program reuses many ideas behind the other famous proxy, its predecessor apt-cacher 1.x (which has been written in Perl). In contrast to apt-cacher, different aspects have been declared as primary targets during the development of apt-cacher-ng:
As with apt-cacher, explicit tracking of dynamically changed and unchanged files is established, and the use in non-Debian environment is supported.
Long story: Not all goals have been achieved. The initial plan of using background databases to merge any download from any arbitrary location has been dropped because of complexity and performance considerations, reliable heuristics could not be found either. Instead, a semi-automated solution has been created which used machine-parsable files with mirror information, like the one available for Debian mirrors in Debian's CVS repository.