Tuesday 18 December 2012

Speed Counts

Why does Website Speed Matter?

In today's high-speed communication, internet users have become accustomed to high speed data connections and optimized web browsers, with online queries answered in milliseconds. 

Statistics show that faster loading websites have a measurable impact on revenue and user experience:

  • Shopzilla reduced page load times from 6 seconds to 1.2 seconds and increased their revenue by 12% and page views by 25%.
  • Amazon increased their revenue by 1% for every 100 milliseconds reduced in page load times.
  • Reducing page load times by 2.2 seconds Mozilla estimates that over 60 million additional Firefox downloads occur each year.
  • Yahoo! site traffic increased by 9% for every 400 millisecond reduction in site latency.
Source: Make Data Useful by Greg Linden at Amazon

There is no denying the correlation between site response times and business revenue. In such a ferociously competitive market, website performance is a factor too important to ignore for e-commerce organizations.

Factors of Speed

In most cases, poorly designed applications and websites are the major factor in site performance. More often than not, design of a website or front-end application is dictated by marketing and style. Users demand and interactive experience, with flashy animated pages with heavy graphics and videos. This may all look great once everything has loaded, but in reality what happens when it comes time to deliver and render all that content over the web? What is the true impact to the user experience and ultimately to your business revenue?

It has been reported that 52% of online shoppers claim that quick page loads are important for their loyalty to a site. NY Times Impatient Web Users Flee Slow Loading Sites

The truth is that, when it comes to delivering a positive online user experience, speed outweighs style: "The speed of website responses is a key factor affecting usability. Raw speed is one of the key attributes that can determine the quality of the user experience. In addition, Google's search engine uses website performance to determine the position of a Web page on search results pages. Therefore, investing in performance improvements will increase the benefits for website owners.” - Ray Valdes, Gartner, Q&A: Website Performance and User Experience.

Other factors in website performance are latency, poor network connections and traffic spikes. On an average day, an online application or website may load in a reasonable amount time, but what about on days with extreme traffic loads? I am thinking about the run up to Christmas, Black Friday, major sporting events and Valentines Day. "57.3million Americans visited online retail sites on Black Friday, representing an increase of 18 percent versus a year ago." - Zach Epstein, BGR, Black Friday Sales Top $1 Billion, Cyber Monday Expected to Set Record

As the rapid adoption of smartphones, tablets and e-readers continues to drive demand for digital books, audio, video and other online content; demand for fast and available online services is going to increase.

So What is the Solution?

In an ideal world, web applications would be designed for speed and load efficiency and all users would have 10Gbps network connections. However this is not realistic solution, so what is the alternative?

One solution is to rethink the protocols used to deliver the content. Google's SPDY (pronounced "Speedy") helps significantly reduce page load latency by up to 50%. - Chromium Project, SPDY: An Experimental Protocol for a Faster Web 

SPDY is a new protocol developed by Google in it's initiative to "make the web faster". It's protocol specification has officially been adopted for the HTTP/2 draft spec. SPDY achieves reduced page load latency using several techniques:
  • Full communication compression: SPDY compresses HTTP headers as well as the HTTP content. 
  • Communication Multiplexing: Unlike HTTP which handles one request at a time in a single connection with response to requests made consecutively, SPDY handles multiple requests and responses concurrently using one connection.
  • Traffic Prioritization: SPDY allows for prioritization of traffic streams, data of higher priority can jump into the process of transportation of data of lower priority and can be transported earlier.

SPDY is already supported by Chrome/Chromium, Firefox and Opera browsers as well as all Android devices and the Kindle Fire. 

Adopting a new protocol in your application environment is no simple task. Historically organizations needed to update their web server infrastructure to take advantage of SPDY's performance improvements, adding cost and complexity to their systems. With Ishlangu's SPDY Offloading capabilities, companies can take advantage of these performance improvements without updating their web application server infrastructure. Ishlangu delivers this capability by translating SPDY requests into HTTP on the back end.

Ishlangu Application Delivery Controller can significantly reduce web application latency and improve its availability by offloading CPU intensive tasks such as SSL processing, HTTP content compression, caching and network connection management. Allowing services to both run and scale efficiently, without the need to increase servers, bandwidth or network infrastructure.

Application delivery controllers are a corner stone of application delivery and acceleration. Garnter comments on the important role Application Delivery Controllers plays in optimizing application performance and availability: 

"The application delivery controller has evolved into a key component of the data center architecture, and enterprises should evaluate ADCs based on how they integrate with this architecture and support more-advanced features, such as user and traffic control and monitoring." - Neil Rickard, Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Application Delivery Controllers  

Ishlangu Application Delivery Controller can accelerate the delivery of your online applications and sites by deploying performance enhancing features such as SSL Offloading, HTTP Content Compression and Caching, SPDY Protocol Support, Content Re-Writing and Connection Management. 

This will ultimately lead to:

  • Improved end-user experience
  • Higher transaction and conversion rates
  • Increased brand loyalty and return visits
  • Reduced bandwidth consumption
  • Increased online visibility
  • Increased browse time on the site 
More information about Ishlangu Application Delivery Controller can be found here.

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