Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Kevin Benedict, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo

@CloudExpo: 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
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Massive Networks mission is simple. To help your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions. Improve your customer's experience with outstanding connections to your cloud.
DevOps is under attack because developers don’t want to mess with infrastructure. They will happily own their code into production, but want to use platforms instead of raw automation. That’s changing the landscape that we understand as DevOps with both architecture concepts (CloudNative) and process redefinition (SRE). Rob Hirschfeld’s recent work in Kubernetes operations has led to the conclusion that containers and related platforms have changed the way we should be thinking about DevOps and...
Everything run by electricity will eventually be connected to the Internet. Get ahead of the Internet of Things revolution and join Akvelon expert and IoT industry leader, Sergey Grebnov, in his session at @ThingsExpo, for an educational dive into the world of managing your home, workplace and all the devices they contain with the power of machine-based AI and intelligent Bot services for a completely streamlined experience.
Because IoT devices are deployed in mission-critical environments more than ever before, it’s increasingly imperative they be truly smart. IoT sensors simply stockpiling data isn’t useful. IoT must be artificially and naturally intelligent in order to provide more value In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Crupi, Vice President and Engineering System Architect at Greenwave Systems, will discuss how IoT artificial intelligence (AI) can be carried out via edge analytics and machine learning techn...
FinTechs use the cloud to operate at the speed and scale of digital financial activity, but are often hindered by the complexity of managing security and compliance in the cloud. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Sesh Murthy, co-founder and CTO of Cloud Raxak, showed how proactive and automated cloud security enables FinTechs to leverage the cloud to achieve their business goals. Through business-driven cloud security, FinTechs can speed time-to-market, diminish risk and costs, maintain continu...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Existing Big Data solutions are mainly focused on the discovery and analysis of data. The solutions are scalable and highly available but tedious when swapping in and swapping out occurs in disarray and thrashing takes place. The resolution for thrashing through machine learning algorithms and support nomenclature is through simple techniques. Organizations that have been collecting large customer data are increasingly seeing the need to use the data for swapping in and out and thrashing occurs ...
As many know, the first generation of Cloud Management Platform (CMP) solutions were designed for managing virtual infrastructure (IaaS) and traditional applications. But that’s no longer enough to satisfy evolving and complex business requirements. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Scott Davis, Embotics CTO, will explore how next-generation CMPs ensure organizations can manage cloud-native and microservice-based application architectures, while also facilitating agile DevOps methodology. He wi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera, that offers a radically new data management architecture, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera is transforming the traditional datacenter model through modern cloud simplicity. The technology industry is at another major inflection point. The rise of mobile, the Internet of Things, data storage and Big...
SYS-CON Events announced today that GrapeUp, the leading provider of rapid product development at the speed of business, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company, specialized in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market acr...
Blockchain is a shared, secure record of exchange that establishes trust, accountability and transparency across business networks. Supported by the Linux Foundation's open source, open-standards based Hyperledger Project, Blockchain has the potential to improve regulatory compliance, reduce cost as well as advance trade. Are you curious about how Blockchain is built for business? In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, will discuss th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business - from apparel to energy - is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
In his opening keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Michael Maximilien, Research Scientist, Architect, and Engineer at IBM, discussed the full potential of the cloud and social data requires artificial intelligence. By mixing Cloud Foundry and the rich set of Watson services, IBM's Bluemix is the best cloud operating system for enterprises today, providing rapid development and deployment of applications that can take advantage of the rich catalog of Watson services to help drive insights from the vast t...
There is only one world-class Cloud event on earth, and that is Cloud Expo – which returns to Silicon Valley for the 21st Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center, October 31 - November 2, 2017. Every Global 2000 enterprise in the world is now integrating cloud computing in some form into its IT development and operations. Midsize and small businesses are also migrating to the cloud in increasing numbers. Companies are each developing their unique mix of cloud technologies and service...
Cloud adoption is often driven by a desire to increase efficiency, boost agility and save money. All too often, however, the reality involves unpredictable cost spikes and lack of oversight due to resource limitations. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Joe Kinsella, CTO and Founder of CloudHealth Technologies, tackled the question: “How do you build a fully optimized cloud?” He will examine: Why TCO is critical to achieving cloud success – and why attendees should be thinking holistically ab...
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, will introduce two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics ...
As DevOps methodologies expand their reach across the enterprise, organizations face the daunting challenge of adapting related cloud strategies to ensure optimal alignment, from managing complexity to ensuring proper governance. How can culture, automation, legacy apps and even budget be reexamined to enable this ongoing shift within the modern software factory?
While some vendors scramble to create and sell you a fancy solution for monitoring your spanking new Amazon Lambdas, hear how you can do it on the cheap using just built-in Java APIs yourself. By exploiting a little-known fact that Lambdas aren’t exactly single-threaded, you can effectively identify hot spots in your serverless code. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Dave Martin, Product owner at CA Technologies, will give a live demonstration and code walkthrough, showing how ...