Saturday, June 18, 2011

Strangeloop Brings Google SPDY to Site Optimizer

Google's SPDY TCP optimization tech is now being leveraged by site optimization vendor Strangeloop, but it won't make the whole web faster - it's only for Chrome.

Google's SPDY protocol is all about accelerating the web, with one major caveat. SPDY only works with Google's Chrome browser. SPDY also benefits from SPDY protocol support on web servers, which is where a new offering from site optimization vendor Strangeloop comes into play.
The SPDY optimization reside on Strangeloop's site optimizer appliances which leverage Linux as the underlying operating system.
"We implement a proxy that speaks SPDY to the Chrome browser and http to the server," Strangeloop President, Joshua Bixby told "We also layer on specific layer 7 optimizations that complement SPDY."

Bixby noted that SPDY on the Strangeloop Site Optimizer does not work on any browser except for Chrome. Bixby was also unable to comment on whether or not a Microsoft Internet Explorer user running Google's Chrome Frame would benefit from Strangeloop's SPDY implementation. Chrome Frame embeds a Chrome rendering engine inside of IE, enabling IE users to get the benefits of Chrome without actually switching browser.
For the hundreds of millions of web users that run IE, Firefox or Safari, Bixby noted that they won't get the benefits of SPDY with Site Optimizer, but they will get the other optimization benefits provided by Strangeloop.
"SPDY won't connect in anything but Chrome, actually for most of our customers their main browser is not Chrome," Bixby said. "So you'll get the Site Optimizer benefits but you won't get the SPDY benefits of multiplexing of streams, request prioritization and the things that Google has done in their rethinking of how TCP should work."
Google first announced SPDY back in November of 2009 and it has been integrated into Chrome since then as well. Bixby noted that he sees SPDY as being an important element in the current battle of the browsers.
The way that Strangeloop Site Optimizer works is it re-writes the HTML that comes out of a website in order to optimize it for delivery. A Site Optimizer appliance is deployed alongside a web server and is specifically tasked with web site optimization. The Site Optimizer appliance is asymmetric and does not require an appliance at both ends of an optimized connection.
Strangeloop does not optimize XML or Web Services that may be part of a web page. The Site Optimizer technology is not a WAN optimization tool in the same sense as are products from Riverbed for example.
"SPDY is just an interesting turbo boost," Bixby said." It layers on top of TCP, and it works at the protocol level. We had our own layer 7 accelerations on top of SPDY."
Bixby explained that Strangeloop's own intellectual property is working at a different level then Google's SPDY. He noted that Strangeloop's job is to show a webpage as fast as possible. In contrast, the SPDY component is tasked with getting the objects across the wire as fast as possible.
In a different respect, Google also has its own efforts to improve web page delivery with theirmod_pagespeed Apache module. The mod_pagespeed technology is already widely deploy onGoDaddy, and helps to optimize HTML output.
Bixby noted that there is some minor feature overlap between what Site Optimizer offers and what mod_pagespeed provides.
"Mod_pagespeed will actually be in our next major release which is coming up in the summer," Bixby said. "We see that open source community really working on page-by-page optimization, in contrast we really think of ourselves as a platform for optimizing websites."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Firefox 6 shows 'progress'

Mozilla developers are pushing forward on Firefox 6. 

That's right - Firefox 6 - and no that's not a typo.  As part of the Mozilla rapid release mantra, Mozilla has Firefox 5 in its beta channel and now has Firefox 6 in the Aurora channel.

The key new item highlight by Mozilla in Firefox 6 is the inclusion of the progress element. We've all seen progress bars for software that is loading and there are all kinds of ways of achieving that affect.

Now Mozilla is baking in one way with .
"This element can be used to give a visual cue of something in progress in the page," Mozilla stated in a post describing Aurora 6. 

Another key area where Firefox 6 will progress is in the area of Flash security. Starting with Firefox 6, Adobe Flash Cookies will be cleared out when clearing out cookies from the browser. That's a big deal and one that will make Firefox 6 much safer. Google Chrome directly integrates Flash Player and can already do the same thing.

In terms of speed and network performance, Firefox 6 includes something called, Accelerated Connection Retry for HTTPNo this is not a Mozilla implementation of Google's SPDY. It's a feature that was supposed to land in Firefox 4 (though I don't recall when or why it was pulled). The accelerated connection is essentially a prefetched TCP connection which should make Firefox 6 faster.

Since Firefox 6 is still technically called Aurora at this point, I wouldn't be surprised if another feature (or two) lands in it before it gets branched off to become Firefox 6 Beta sometime in June.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mozilla launches MemShrink effort to improve Firefox memory use

Firefox is a memory hog. There, I said it. Some of you might disagree, but the fact of the matter is that even though Firefox 4 (and soon 5) improve memory over say Firefox 3.x, it's still a real hog.

Thankfully, I'm not alone in the belief that SOMETHING must be done. Mozilla is now taking this very seriously and is starting a new effort called, 'MemShrink'. The goal of the group is to target the developer resources required to solve this nagging problem.
"It's pretty clear by now that this is a much bigger problem than any one  person can likely tackle," Mozilla Developer, Johnny Stenback wrote in a mailing list posting. "So to help get more attention to this issue we'll be starting up a MemShrink effort, where a group of people will get together to look at the big picture, triage bugs, investigate general approaches, and do some brainstorming."
FINALLY!! Mozilla is taking very specific aim at this very serious issue.

Now don't get me wrong, Mozilla has been fixing memory leak issues when they pop up. This new team holds the promise of not just fixing leaks, but of making the issue of memory use better.

It's no trivial task, memory isn't just a function of what Mozilla's code consumes. More often then not, purely coded JavaScript with recursive loops and other cycle hogging garbage can suck up memory and CPU. I know that since Firefox 3.6, Mozilla has separated out some processes, but maybe there is room for more of that.

The other issue has to do with target platforms. There are plenty of people out there at have 1 GB or less of RAM. As I'm writing this post now, Firefox 4.0.1 is consuming 633 MB on my machine and that's not abnormal. Simply put, it's just waaay too much RAM for a web browser.

Then again, if you've got 8 GB of DDR3 RAM, you likely aren't all that worried about using 633 MB for Firefox. So maybe it's just a question of focus. Is Mozilla still interested in the mainstream consumer?

Time will tell how effective the MemShrink effort is, but it's definitely a step in the right direction to solving a problem that Mozilla must fix.

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