Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: AppDynamics Blog, Kelly Murphy, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, Microservices Journal

Cloud Expo: Article

Next-Generation Content Delivery: Cloud Acceleration

Cloud acceleration essentially does the same thing for dynamic content that a CDN does for static content

It would be an understatement to say that this past decade belongs to the Internet. Starting primarily as a research tool, the Internet has now infiltrated every aspect of life - there is very little today that users do not, or cannot, do online. Moreover, new ways to leverage the Internet to personal and professional advantage arise every day.

Evidently, all this progress has had an insidious side-effect - user expectations regarding website performance have sky-rocketed over the years. People expect websites, video and audio to load faster than ever before; otherwise, they lose interest and go to other websites. In fact, research firms have ample findings to support this correlation. A 2009 ResearchLink survey found that 26 percent of respondents would move to a competitor's website if a vendor's website failed to perform, resulting in immediate revenue loss of 26 percent and a future loss of 15 percent. Forrester Research also found that 36 percent of unique visitors to a website will leave it if it fails to load within the first three seconds. Three seconds - that's not a lot of time. Yet, user expectations are warranted, seeing how much progress content delivery technology has made in the past few years. Couple these user demands with an architecture that is not fit to deliver the kind of performance they expect, and what we have on our hands is a big problem for companies whose business thrives on web content and e-commerce.

But as always, the IT people of a decade ago conferred and found a solution. Content Delivery Network (CDN) companies invested a lot of time and money into a solution that is still being used today. The solution was to store content as close to the end user as possible, a technique known as edge caching. It allows users to access cached versions of the web or applications for faster, easier access. In addition to edge caching, some of the more sophisticated CDNs have gone one step further and developed unique algorithms and massive distributed networks that would help them proactively identify trouble spots over the public Internet, and reroute content around them. While this additional technique allows websites to deliver asymmetrical traffic a little more efficiently, applications like streaming video and audio, and even software downloads, are still cached at the edge of the network despite this routing technique.

Clearly, this technique is effective for content up to a certain size, but it is not enough to meet the high throughput demands of today's growing business reliance on data and larger residential Internet connections over great distances. Edge caching is best suited for static content, and not the dynamic, rich content we see today, since static content doesn't change very often and can easily be stored on low-cost disks in a multitude of locations around the Internet. Even if it does change fairly frequently, it is easy to script these updates to ensure that copies sitting at the edge are up-to-date. But the reality is that today, in 2010, static content forms an increasingly smaller percentage of all the content that requires transfer. The need of the hour is to be able to transfer dynamic content with the speed and ease - and it is yet unfulfilled. CDNs and their edge-caching capabilities are not nearly as successful with dynamic content since, by its very nature, it cannot simply be thrown on to the edge of a network due to inherent size and constituency. The character of dynamic content dictates that while it may be live at this moment, it may not exist two seconds from now. What's more, content that falls under this category includes most of what we use today: VoIP, FTP, live video and so on.

The question then remains: How do content providers ensure that end users (both business and consumers) experience the same ease of access they did a decade ago, but with the dynamic content they want to transfer today?

Enter the CDN's newer, more sophisticated cousin - cloud acceleration - which does what CDNs do, but faster and more able to deal with dynamic content. Cloud acceleration is best suited for dynamic content because it does not rely on edge caching - in fact, it works best without edge caching. In addition, it is more cost-effective as users are not paying for a decade's worth of infrastructure designed and built-out to enhance edge-caching capabilities. And last, but not least, it can fight common Internet problems, not only by working (routing) around them, but by actually fixing the core problem associated with long distance networks altogether. There's definitely something to be said for a solution that addresses the real issue, performs better, costs less and results in happy website visitors and increased revenues.

But how does cloud acceleration work its magic in the first place?

For starters, as previously mentioned, cloud acceleration doesn't rely on edge caching. Instead, it optimizes the entire delivery path, over the network managed by the service provider. Content is therefore delivered directly from origin servers to the end user, at the same level of performance as if they were in the same building. How is that better? For one, the most significant and important portion of the delivery path is surprisingly not the public Internet, but rather a high-performance, private, 100 percent optical network designed for speed. The cloud acceleration service provider is in full control of traffic and congestion on the network, and therefore controls Quality of Service (QoS). Of course, that also adds an element of security to the entire journey undertaken by the data. But most important, in this context, is the fact that cloud acceleration providers no longer have to rely on third-party Internet providers to work around common Internet problems such as latency, jitter and packet loss using algorithmic rerouting calculations common to CDNs. They are now in the position to actually fix them.

For more clarity, let's revisit how CDNs function. We can logically break it down into three distinct "miles" that cover the path between the content origin and the end user requesting it. The first mile is the distance between the origin server and a backbone - e.g., a T1, DSx, OCx or Ethernet connection to the Internet. The middle mile is the backbone that traverses the majority of the distance over one or more interconnected carrier backbones. Finally the last mile is the end-user's connection, such as a DSL, cable, wireless or other connection.

Simply put, CDNs that rely on caching frequently request objects at the edge of the network and are designed to avoid all three of these "miles" as much as possible. Because we know that an increase in distance always results in increased latency and often greater packet loss, it's best to place as many global object copies close to end users as possible. Well-designed caching CDNs do this fairly well by placing object caching servers within the network of the last mile provider. Other caching CDNs that do not have the luxury of placing servers within the network of the last mile provider will place them at key Internet peering points. While not as close to the end user, this is still a fairly effective approach to avoiding problems altogether.

The more sophisticated CDNs that also attempt to choose alternate Internet paths still suffer because they inherently rely on the Internet to get from point A to point B. Since they don't own the network, and therefore have no ultimate control over any "mile" of the route, they are at the mercy of the Internet. Providers that do own a network attempt to inject QoS by using multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), but are ultimately still at the mercy of the effects of latency, jitter and packet loss over longer distances.

With the CDN protocol established, how does a cloud acceleration service provider do things differently? First, it is important to understand that the overall objective is still similar to traditional CDNs: minimize the amount of public Internet utilized for moving content from the origin to the end user. The more Internet travel that can be avoided, the better the result in terms of end-user web performance. The goal of acceleration, however, is to accomplish this without caching at the edge, because optimally future dynamic content will not be cached. In fact, much of what we view today as dynamic content requires a persistent connection between the origin and the end user, which is achieved through the following three steps:

Step one involves opening a connection to the origin server over the first mile so the data stream can be brought onto the accelerated network as quickly as possible for the optimization process to begin. Installing an optional origin appliance starts the optimization process right at the origin datacenter, which gets the optimization going even sooner. The cloud acceleration service provider should have multiple origin capture nodes around the world, or at least close to the origin of its customer base. This, coupled with routing algorithms, will pull content onto the network as close to the origin as possible.

Step two involves hauling the content over the highly engineered private network. Because this middle mile is the longest portion of the trip, it is where the bulk of the data stream optimization happens. In addition to running a fully meshed MPLS-TE network at that origin capture node, infrastructure similar to a WAN optimizer will then open a tunnel across the service provider's entire private backbone to an identical device at the edge node near the end user. These devices constantly talk to each other, optimizing flow to ensure maximum throughput with window scaling, selective acknowledgement, round-trip measurement and congestion control. Packet-level forward error correction is an important feature to reconstitute lost packets at the edge node, avoiding delays that come with multiple-round-trip retransmission. Packets are also resequenced at the edge node using packet order correction to avoid retransmissions that occur when packets arrive out of order. Byte-level data deduplication eliminates retransmission of identical bytes that could otherwise be created at the edge, and multiplexing is utilized to minimize unnecessary chatter and further compress data as it traverses the tunnel.

Step three involves taking advantage of direct peering to eyeball networks, or the last mile, so the content can be dropped back on the Internet just before it reaches the end user. Because you can't expect users to install software applications or hardware appliances in their homes or on their devices, placing nodes close to the end user is critical to the maximum success of the process. Generally, if you can place the node from 5 to 10 ms from the end user, the experience will still feel like a LAN. Furthermore, the benefit of placing content inside the eyeball or last mile network ensures that delivery of content will not be affected by congestion at the ISP's Internet drain during peak usage, which is a common problem.

Through these three steps, cloud acceleration essentially does the same thing for dynamic content that a CDN does for static content - places it right in the user's lap. With a continuous open data stream equivalent to that of a super highway, it is now possible to optimize VoIP, live video, interactive e-media file transfer applications like FTP, CIFS, and NFS, and any new technologies and content that rely on rapid Internet performance in the future.

More Stories By Jonathan Hoppe

Jonathan Hoppe is President & CTO of Cloud Leverage. He has 15 years of technology experience in application development, Internet, networks and enterprise management systems. As president & CTO, he sets the long-term technology strategy of the company, acts as the technical liaison to partners, representatives and vendors, oversees large enterprise-level projects and is the chief architect for all e-business solutions, software applications and platforms. Additionally, Jonathan leads the architecture, operation, networking and telecom for each globally positioned data center as well as the Network Operations Center.

Prior to heading Cloud Leverage, Jonathan held various positions including president and CEO, CTO and senior applications developer for various e-business solution providers in Canada and the United States.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. It also ensured scalability and better service for customers, including MUY! Companies, one of the country's largest franchise restaurant companies with 232 Pizza Hut locations. This is one example of...
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device exp...
There is little doubt that Big Data solutions will have an increasing role in the Enterprise IT mainstream over time. 8th International Big Data Expo, co-located with 17th International Cloud Expo - to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - has announced its Call for Papers is open. As advanced data storage, access and analytics technologies aimed at handling high-volume and/or fast moving data all move center stage, aided by the cloud computing bo...
Some developers believe that monitoring is a function of the operations team. Some operations teams firmly believe that monitoring the systems they maintain is sufficient to run the business successfully. Most of them are wrong. The complexity of today's applications have gone far and beyond the capabilities of "traditional" system-level monitoring tools and approaches and requires much broader knowledge of business and applications as a whole. The goal of DevOps is to connect all aspects of app...
Every day we read jaw-dropping stats on the explosion of data. We allocate significant resources to harness and better understand it. We build businesses around it. But we’ve only just begun. For big payoffs in Big Data, CIOs are turning to cognitive computing. Cognitive computing’s ability to securely extract insights, understand natural language, and get smarter each time it’s used is the next, logical step for Big Data.
DevOps is all about agility. However, you don't want to be on a high-speed bus to nowhere. The right DevOps approach controls velocity with a tight feedback loop that not only consists of operational data but also incorporates business context. With a business context in the decision making, the right business priorities are incorporated, which results in a higher value creation. In his session at DevOps Summit, Todd Rader, Solutions Architect at AppDynamics, discussed key monitoring techniques...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
Want to enable self-service provisioning of application environments in minutes that mirror production? Can you automatically provide rich data with code-level detail back to the developers when issues occur in production? In his session at DevOps Summit, David Tesar, Microsoft Technical Evangelist on Microsoft Azure and DevOps, will discuss how to accomplish this and more utilizing technologies such as Microsoft Azure, Visual Studio online, and Application Insights in this demo-heavy session.
DevOps Summit, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long developmen...
The 5th International DevOps Summit, co-located with 17th International Cloud Expo – being held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MetraTech, now part of Ericsson, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Ericsson is the driving force behind the Networked Society- a world leader in communications infrastructure, software and services. Some 40% of the world’s mobile traffic runs through networks Ericsson has supplied, serving more than 2.5 billion subscribers.
The 17th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. 17th International Cloud Expo, to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, APM, APIs, Microservices, Security, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding bu...
Over the years, a variety of methodologies have emerged in order to overcome the challenges related to project constraints. The successful use of each methodology seems highly context-dependent. However, communication seems to be the common denominator of the many challenges that project management methodologies intend to resolve. In this respect, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can be viewed as powerful tools for managing projects. Few research papers have focused on the way...
As the world moves from DevOps to NoOps, application deployment to the cloud ought to become a lot simpler. However, applications have been architected with a much tighter coupling than it needs to be which makes deployment in different environments and migration between them harder. The microservices architecture, which is the basis of many new age distributed systems such as OpenStack, Netflix and so on is at the heart of CloudFoundry – a complete developer-oriented Platform as a Service (PaaS...
As cloud gives an opportunity to businesses to buy services externally – how is cloud impacting your customers? In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Fabio Gori, Director of Worldwide Cloud Marketing at Cisco, provided answers to big questions: Do you see hybrid cloud as where the world is going? What benefits does it bring? And how does Cisco connect all of these clouds? He also discussed Intercloud and Cisco’s investment on it.
17th Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterprises a...
There is no question that the cloud is where businesses want to host data. Until recently hypervisor virtualization was the most widely used method in cloud computing. Recently virtual containers have been gaining in popularity, and for good reason. In the debate between virtual machines and containers, the latter have been seen as the new kid on the block – and like other emerging technology have had some initial shortcomings. However, the container space has evolved drastically since coming on...
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover ...
Enterprises are fast realizing the importance of integrating SaaS/Cloud applications, API and on-premises data and processes, to unleash hidden value. This webinar explores how managers can use a Microservice-centric approach to aggressively tackle the unexpected new integration challenges posed by proliferation of cloud, mobile, social and big data projects. Industry analyst and SOA expert Jason Bloomberg will strip away the hype from microservices, and clearly identify their advantages and d...
In her General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Anne Plese, Senior Consultant, Cloud Product Marketing, at Verizon Enterprise, focused on finding the right mix of renting vs. buying Oracle capacity to scale to meet business demands, and offer validated Oracle database TCO models for Oracle development and testing environments. Anne Plese is a marketing and technology enthusiast/realist with over 19+ years in high tech. At Verizon Enterprise, she focuses on driving growth for the Verizon Cloud platfo...