F5 Leveraging Google’s SPDY Protocol

Networking vendor F5 has long been focused on application delivery optimization. Now thanks to the Google SPDY protocol for TCP, Web traffic can now be accelerated faster than ever before.

Web acceleration regardless of end-points

In its initial implementation, SPDY was baked into the Google Chrome Web browser but that only enabled users of that browser to benefit. This year, Mozilla Firefox is set to also provide SPDY support on the client side and efforts are underway to create an industry-wide SPDY standard. What F5 is now doing is providing the ability to accelerate web traffic with SPDY, regardless of the client or server end-point.

“If an enterprise wants to support SPDY in their own environment today it’s only available as an Apache HTTP module,” Alan Murphy, senior technical marketing manager, told Enterprise Networking Planet. “So it’s hard to bring the SPDY enhancements to some applications including Oracle and non-browser based applications.”

Because F5’s application delivery controllers (ADCs) sit between the user and the server, the company is taking advantage of that position (literally) by rolling out a new version of its TMOS software that will enable the ADC to proxy SPDY bi-directionally. As such, the system will perform SPDY negotiation between both the user and the server backend even if the server does not natively support SPDY.

“If there is no SPDY service available on the backend we’ll then translate that request into a standard Web request but deliver the optimized experience using the SPDY protocol,” Murphy said.

From a performance perspective, Henry Tam, a product manager at F5, told Enterprise Networking Planet that gains in the 20 percent range versus non-SPDY connections have been clocked.

Going above and beyond what SPDY provides on its own, F5 is also baking is support for its traditional traffic optimization capabilities including traffic prioritization for SPDY to further enhance the offering.

Tam noted that F5 also provides security for SPDY, which can support multiple streams within the same TCP connection. That multiple stream support could potentially be abused by an attacker to create a denial of service (DoS) attack. To help mitigate that risk, F5 can limit the number of SPDY streams.

“We basically take advantage of what the protocol delivers and adding on management type things,” Tam said.

Looking beyond SPDY, F5 is also optimizing image delivery. F5’s ADC will have the capability to reduce image file sizes by as much as 50 percent in some cases, which will help to accelerate network traffic. The image file size reduction will be enabled by reducing extraneous metadata from the files as well as lowering image quality, in a way that won’t impact the user experience.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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