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Application Performance Management (APM)

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gus-robertsonGus Robertson is CEO of web server developer Nginx. Before Nginx, Robertson was vice president of global business development for Red Hat where he managed Red Hat’s strategic alliance relationships, and was responsible for vertical industry ecosystems and solution development. Robertson has held other senior management roles at Microsoft, Visio and Lexmark.

Gus shares his top tips on application acceleration toolkits.

 

It's no secret that in the 25 years of the web's existence, we’ve become increasingly impatient. What used to be the 10-second rule of performance in 1997 has rapidly shrunk from eight, to four, to three seconds. Now, at the first sign of inconsistency, most of us will decide that a site can't deliver the experience we want. And, as we have little charity for poor-performing applications, we then disappear. Forever.

Our impatience isn't necessarily a bad thing. We simply know now what is possible from the applications that are successfully being served up on the web. Sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, Airbnb, Dropbox, Netflix, serve up some of the most popular applications on the web without compromising on performance. As discerning users, we naturally wonder why these sites can accomplish this feat while others seemingly cannot.

The answer? They use an application delivery toolkit to serve their performance hungry users. And not in the way you might think.

Application Toolkits

Many people may be familiar with high-performance webservers for handling the never-ending growth of inbound connections. That’s great—but they can actually do much more. The more sophisticated sites mentioned above, for example, are using the combination of features in high performance webservers and proxies as an application acceleration toolkit.

There is no single "silver bullet" when it comes to increasing performance and improving the end-user experience. But here are five key reasons why application acceleration toolkits work:

1.    Enhance the power of your existing front end
By off-loading the heavy lifting of HTTP from your app servers, you increase your capacity for handling inbound, concurrent traffic—giving you greater efficiency and performance.

2.    Intelligently route traffic to the appropriate back-end resource pools
Every server need not be the same. You can specialize; tune some servers for fast content delivery without authentication; tune others for high-security transaction processing. Route each request to the appropriate resource pool and get responses back to the client without delays. This technique alone can greatly improve performance as well as security.

3.    Load-balance traffic within pools of servers
Many load-balancing disciplines— which allow traffic to spread evenly between servers—are available that will allow you to disperse traffic across multitudes of servers and pools of resources. Again, this improves performance—as well as availability.

4.    Manipulate content as it passes through
In our mobile world, this is particularly useful as it allows you to change the type and size of content depending on the type of device in use. It is also useful for API management, tools for scaling, creating and securing web APIs, to extract confidential keys (code allowing access to the API) from traffic before sending to development teams.

5.    Apply compression and caching techniques for faster delivery
Sure, these techniques are standard for most Content Delivery Networks (CDNs). But you can achieve great performance gains by implementing the same techniques in your own datacenter, before the traffic ever reaches the internet.

These five points all demonstrate how application acceleration can greatly improve the performance and efficiency of your application delivery tier within your datacenter. But let’s not forget one other common (and critical) advantage: security. Many people just focus on the front end of the application for SSL termination. Be sure your strategy enables you to employ SSL at every level of the stack for end-to-end security.

It’s all about the user

If some of the busiest and highest performing websites today are using application acceleration in this way than this is more than just experimentation with new technology - this is a game-changer! These sites aren’t just using application delivery toolkits to get more efficient utilization of resources and reducing costs – they’ve figured out that application delivery is equally important as the app itself.

Bottom line: it's all about the user, and performance is critical to attract new users and keep existing users from clicking on the link to your competitor.

 

Gus Robertson is CEO at Nginx, Inc www.nginx.com


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