Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Brad Anderson, Liz McMillan, Christopher Campbell

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, SOA & WOA

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.


Cloud Expo Breaking News
Simply defined the SDDC promises that you’ll be able to treat “all” of your IT infrastructure as if it’s completely malleable. That there are no restrictions to how you can use and assign everything from border controls to VM size as long as you stay within the technical capabilities of the devices. The promise is great, but the reality is still a dream for the majority of enterprises. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Mark Thiele, EVP, Data Center Tech, at SUPERNAP, will cover where and how a business might benefit from SDDC and also why they should or shouldn’t attempt to adopt today.
MapDB is an Apache-licensed open source database specifically designed for Java developers. The library uses the standard Java Collections API, making it totally natural for Java developers to use and adopt, while scaling database size from GBs to TBs. MapDB is very fast and supports an agile approach to data, allowing developers to construct flexible schemas to exactly match application needs and tune performance, durability and caching for specific requirements.
APIs came about to help companies create and manage their digital ecosystem, enabling them not only to reach more customers through more devices, but also create a large supporting ecosystem of developers and partners. While Facebook, Twitter and Netflix were the early adopters of APIs, large enterprises have been quick to embrace the concept of APIs and have been leveraging APIs as a connective tissue that powers all interactions between their customers, partners and employees. As enterprises embrace APIs, some very specific Enterprise API Adoption patterns and best practices have started emerging. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Sachin Agarwal, VP of Product Marketing and Strategy at SOA Software, will talk about the most common enterprise API patterns and will discuss how enterprises can successfully launch an API program.
The social media expansion has shown just how people are eager to share their experiences with the rest of the world. Cloud technology is the perfect platform to satisfy this need given its great flexibility and readiness. At Cynny, we aim to revolutionize how people share and organize their digital life through a brand new cloud service, starting from infrastructure to the users’ interface. A revolution that began from inventing and designing our very own infrastructure: we have created the first server network powered solely by ARM CPU. The microservers have “organism-like” features, differentiating them from any of the current technologies. Benefits include low consumption of energy, making Cynny the ecologically friendly alternative for storage as well as cheaper infrastructure, lower running costs, etc.
Next-Gen Cloud. Whatever you call it, there’s a higher calling for cloud computing that requires providers to change their spots and move from a commodity mindset to a premium one. Businesses can no longer maintain the status quo that today’s service providers offer. Yes, the continuity, speed, mobility, data access and connectivity are staples of the cloud and always will be. But cloud providers that plan to not only exist tomorrow – but to lead – know that security must be the top priority for the cloud and are delivering it now. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Kurt Hagerman, Chief Information Security Officer at FireHost, will detail why and how you can have both infrastructure performance and enterprise-grade security – and what tomorrow's cloud provider will look like.
Today, developers and business units are leading the charge to cloud computing. The primary driver: faster access to computing resources by using the cloud's automated infrastructure provisioning. However, fast access to infrastructure exposes the next friction point: creating, delivering, and operating applications much faster. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Bernard Golden, VP of Strategy at ActiveState, will discuss why solving the next friction point is critical for true cloud computing success and how developers and business units can leverage service catalogs, frameworks, and DevOps to achieve the true goal of IT: delivering increased business value through applications.
Web conferencing in a public cloud has the same risks as any other cloud service. If you have ever had concerns over the types of data being shared in your employees’ web conferences, such as IP, financials or customer data, then it’s time to look at web conferencing in a private cloud. In her session at 14th Cloud Expo, Courtney Behrens, Senior Marketing Manager at Brother International, will discuss how issues that had previously been out of your control, like performance, advanced administration and compliance, can now be put back behind your firewall.
More and more enterprises today are doing business by opening up their data and applications through APIs. Though forward-thinking and strategic, exposing APIs also increases the surface area for potential attack by hackers. To benefit from APIs while staying secure, enterprises and security architects need to continue to develop a deep understanding about API security and how it differs from traditional web application security or mobile application security. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Sachin Agarwal, VP of Product Marketing and Strategy at SOA Software, will walk you through the various aspects of how an API could be potentially exploited. He will discuss the necessary best practices to secure your data and enterprise applications while continue continuing to support your business’s digital initiatives.
The revolution that happened in the server universe over the past 15 years has resulted in an eco-system that is more open, more democratically innovative and produced better results in technically challenging dimensions like scale. The underpinnings of the revolution were common hardware, standards based APIs (ex. POSIX) and a strict adherence to layering and isolation between applications, daemons and kernel drivers/modules which allowed multiple types of development happen in parallel without hindering others. Put simply, today's server model is built on a consistent x86 platform with few surprises in its core components. A kernel abstracts away the platform, so that applications and daemons are decoupled from the hardware. In contrast, networking equipment is still stuck in the mainframe era. Today, networking equipment is a single appliance, including hardware, OS, applications and user interface come as a monolithic entity from a single vendor. Switching between different vendor'...
Cloud backup and recovery services are critical to safeguarding an organization’s data and ensuring business continuity when technical failures and outages occur. With so many choices, how do you find the right provider for your specific needs? In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Daniel Jacobson, Technology Manager at BUMI, will outline the key factors including backup configurations, proactive monitoring, data restoration, disaster recovery drills, security, compliance and data center resources. Aside from the technical considerations, the secret sauce in identifying the best vendor is the level of focus, expertise and specialization of their engineering team and support group, and how they monitor your day-to-day backups, provide recommendations, and guide you through restores when necessary.
Cloud scalability and performance should be at the heart of every successful Internet venture. The infrastructure needs to be resilient, flexible, and fast – it’s best not to get caught thinking about architecture until the middle of an emergency, when it's too late. In his interactive, no-holds-barred session at 14th Cloud Expo, Phil Jackson, Development Community Advocate for SoftLayer, will dive into how to design and build-out the right cloud infrastructure.
You use an agile process; your goal is to make your organization more agile. What about your data infrastructure? The truth is, today’s databases are anything but agile – they are effectively static repositories that are cumbersome to work with, difficult to change, and cannot keep pace with application demands. Performance suffers as a result, and it takes far longer than it should to deliver on new features and capabilities needed to make your organization competitive. As your application and business needs change, data repositories and structures get outmoded rapidly, resulting in increased work for application developers and slow performance for end users. Further, as data sizes grow into the Big Data realm, this problem is exacerbated and becomes even more difficult to address. A seemingly simple schema change can take hours (or more) to perform, and as requirements evolve the disconnect between existing data structures and actual needs diverge.
SYS-CON Events announced today that SherWeb, a long-time leading provider of cloud services and Microsoft's 2013 World Hosting Partner of the Year, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 14th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 10–12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. A worldwide hosted services leader ranking in the prestigious North American Deloitte Technology Fast 500TM, and Microsoft's 2013 World Hosting Partner of the Year, SherWeb provides competitive cloud solutions to businesses and partners around the world. Founded in 1998, SherWeb is a privately owned company headquartered in Quebec, Canada. Its service portfolio includes Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Dynamics CRM and more.
The world of cloud and application development is not just for the hardened developer these days. In their session at 14th Cloud Expo, Phil Jackson, Development Community Advocate for SoftLayer, and Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, will pull back the curtain of the architecture of a fun demo application purpose-built for the cloud. They will focus on demonstrating how they leveraged compute, storage, messaging, and other cloud elements hosted at SoftLayer to lower the effort and difficulty of putting together a useful application. This will be an active demonstration and review of simple command-line tools and resources, so don’t be afraid if you are not a seasoned developer.
SYS-CON Events announced today that BUMI, a premium managed service provider specializing in data backup and recovery, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 14th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 10–12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. Manhattan-based BUMI (Backup My Info!) is a premium managed service provider specializing in data backup and recovery. Founded in 2002, the company’s Here, There and Everywhere data backup and recovery solutions are utilized by more than 500 businesses. BUMI clients include professional service organizations such as banking, financial, insurance, accounting, hedge funds and law firms. The company is known for its relentless passion for customer service and support, and has won numerous awards, including Customer Service Provider of the Year and 10 Best Companies to Work For.