Tag Archives: Tiered Cache

Improving Origin Performance for Everyone with Orpheus and Tiered Cache

Post Syndicated from David Tuber original https://blog.cloudflare.com/orpheus/

Improving Origin Performance for Everyone with Orpheus and Tiered Cache

Improving Origin Performance for Everyone with Orpheus and Tiered Cache

Cloudflare’s mission is to help build a better Internet for everyone. Building a better Internet means helping build more reliable and efficient services that everyone can use. To help realize this vision, we’re announcing the free distribution of two products, one old and one new:

  • Tiered Caching is now available to all customers for free. Tiered Caching reduces origin data transfer and improves performance, making web properties cheaper and faster to operate. Tiered Cache was previously a paid addition to Free, Pro, and Business plans as part of Argo.
  • Orpheus is now available to all customers for free. Orpheus routes around problems on the Internet to ensure that customer origin servers are reachable from everywhere, reducing the number of errors your visitors see.

Tiered Caching: improving website performance and economics for everyone

Tiered Cache uses the size of our network to reduce requests to customer origins by dramatically increasing cache hit ratios. With data centers around the world, Cloudflare caches content very close to end users, but if a piece of content is not in cache, the Cloudflare edge data centers must contact the origin server to receive the cacheable content. This can be slow and places load on an origin server compared to serving directly from cache.

Tiered Cache works by dividing Cloudflare’s data centers into a hierarchy of lower-tiers and upper-tiers. If content is not cached in lower-tier data centers (generally the ones closest to a visitor), the lower-tier must ask an upper-tier to see if it has the content. If the upper-tier does not have it, only the upper-tier can ask the origin for content. This practice improves bandwidth efficiency by limiting the number of data centers that can ask the origin for content, reduces origin load, and makes websites more cost-effective to operate.

Dividing data centers like this results in improved performance for visitors because distances and links traversed between Cloudflare data centers are generally shorter and faster than the links between data centers and origins. It also reduces load on origins, making web properties more economical to operate. Customers enabling Tiered Cache can achieve a 60% or greater reduction in their cache miss rate as compared to Cloudflare’s traditional CDN service.

Additionally, Tiered Cache concentrates connections to origin servers so they come from a small number of data centers rather than the full set of network locations. This results in fewer open connections using server resources.

Improving Origin Performance for Everyone with Orpheus and Tiered Cache

Tiered Cache is simple to enable:

  • Log into your Cloudflare account.
  • Navigate to the Caching in the dashboard.
  • Under Caching, select Tiered Cache.
  • Enable Tiered Cache.

From there, customers will automatically be enrolled in Smart Tiered Cache Topology without needing to make any additional changes. Enterprise Customers can select from different prefab topologies or have a custom topology created for their unique needs.

Improving Origin Performance for Everyone with Orpheus and Tiered Cache

Smart Tiered Cache dynamically selects the single best upper tier for each of your website’s origins with no configuration required. We will dynamically find the single best upper tier for an origin by using Cloudflare’s performance and routing data. Cloudflare collects latency data for each request to an origin. Using this latency data, we can determine how well any upper-tier data center is connected with an origin and can empirically select the best data center with the lowest latency to be the upper-tier for an origin.

Today, Smart Tiered Cache is being offered to ALL Cloudflare customers for free, in contrast to other CDNs who may charge exorbitant fees for similar or worse functionality. Current Argo customers will get additional benefits described here. We think that this is a foundational improvement to the performance and economics of running a website.

But what happens if an upper-tier can’t reach an origin?

Orpheus: solving origin reachability problems for everyone

Cloudflare is a reverse proxy that receives traffic from end users and proxies requests back to customer servers or origins. To be successful, Cloudflare needs to be reachable by end users while simultaneously being able to reach origins. With end users around the world, Cloudflare needs to be able to reach origins from multiple points around the world at the same time. This is easier said than done! The Internet is not homogenous, and diverse Cloudflare network locations do not necessarily take the same paths to a given customer origin at any given time. A customer origin may be reachable from some networks but not from others.

Cloudflare developed Argo to be the Waze of the Internet, allowing our network to react to changes in Internet traffic conditions and route around congestion and breakages in real-time, ensuring end users always have a good experience. Argo Smart Routing provides amazing performance and reliability improvements to our customers.

Enter Orpheus. Orpheus provides reachability benefits for customers by finding unreachable paths on the Internet in real time, and guiding traffic away from those paths, ensuring that Cloudflare will always be able to reach an origin no matter what is happening on the Internet.  

Today, we’re excited to announce that Orpheus is available to and being used by all our customers.

Fewer 522s

You may have seen this error before at one time or another.

Improving Origin Performance for Everyone with Orpheus and Tiered Cache

This error indicates that a user was unable to reach content because Cloudflare couldn’t reach the origin. Because of the unpredictability of the Internet described above, users may see this error even when an origin is up and able to receive traffic.

So why do you see this error? The 522 error occurs when network instability causes traffic sent by Cloudflare to fail either before it reaches the origin, or on the way back from the origin to Cloudflare. This is the equivalent of either Cloudflare or your origin sending a request and never getting a response. Both sides think that they’re fine, but the network path between them is not reachable at all. This causes customer pain.

Orpheus solves that pain, ensuring that no matter where users are or where the origin is, an Internet application will always be reachable from Cloudflare.

How it works

Orpheus builds and provisions routes from Cloudflare to origins by analyzing data from users on every path from Cloudflare and ordering them on a per-data center level with the goal of eliminating connection errors and minimizing packet loss. If Orpheus detects errors on the current path from Cloudflare back to a customer origin, Orpheus will steer subsequent traffic from the impacted network path to the healthiest path available.

Improving Origin Performance for Everyone with Orpheus and Tiered Cache

This is similar to how Argo works but with some key differences: Argo is always steering traffic down the fastest path, whereas Orpheus is reactionary and steers traffic down healthy (and not necessarily the fastest) paths when needed.

Improving origin reachability for customers

Let’s look at an example.

Barry has an origin hosted in WordPress in Chicago for his daughter’s band. This zone primarily sees traffic from three locations: the location closest to his daughter in Seattle, the location closest to him in Boston, and the location closest to his parents in Tampa, who check in on their granddaughter’s site daily for updates.

One day, a link between Tampa and the Chicago origin gets cut by a wandering backhoe. This means that Tampa loses some connectivity back to the Chicago origin. As a result, Barry’s parents start to see failures when connecting back to origin when connecting to the site. This reflects in origin reachability decreasing. Orpheus helps here by finding alternate paths for Barry’s parents, whether it’s through Boston, Seattle, or any location in between that isn’t impacted by the fiber cut seen in Tampa.

Improving Origin Performance for Everyone with Orpheus and Tiered Cache

So even though there is packet loss between one of Cloudflare’s data centers and Barry’s origin, because there is a path through a different Cloudflare data center that doesn’t have loss, the traffic will still succeed because the traffic will go down the non-lossy path.

How much does Orpheus help my origin reachability?

In our rollout of Orpheus for customers, we observed that Orpheus improved Origin reachability by 23%, from 99.87% to 99.90%. Here is a chart showing the improvement Orpheus provides (lower is better):

Improving Origin Performance for Everyone with Orpheus and Tiered Cache

We measure this reachability improvement by measuring 522 rates for every data center-origin pair and then comparing traffic that traversed Orpheus routes with traffic that went directly back to origin. Orpheus was especially helpful at improving reachability for slightly lossy paths that could present small amounts of failure over a long period of time, whereas direct to origin would see those failures.

Note that we’ll never get this number to 0% because, with or without Orpheus, some origins really are unreachable because they are down!

Orpheus makes Cloudflare products better

Orpheus pairs well with some of our products that are already designed to provide highly available services on an uncertain Internet. Let’s go over the interactions between Orpheus and three of our products: Load Balancing, Cloudflare Network Interconnect, and Tiered Cache.

Load Balancing

Orpheus and Load Balancing go together to provide high reachability for every origin endpoint. Load balancing allows for automatic selection of endpoints based on health probes, ensuring that if an origin isn’t working, customers will still be available and operational. Orpheus finds reachable paths from Cloudflare to every origin. These two products in tandem provide a highly available and reachable experience for customers.

Cloudflare Network Interconnect

Orpheus and Cloudflare Network Interconnect (CNI) combine to always provide a highly reachable path, no matter where in the world you are. Consider Acme, a company who is connected to the Internet by only one provider that has a lot of outages. Orpheus will do its best to steer traffic around the lossy paths, but if there’s only one path back to the customer, Orpheus won’t be able to find a less-lossy path. Cloudflare Network Interconnect solves this problem by providing a path that is separate from the transit provider that any Cloudflare data center can access. CNI provides a viable path back to Acme’s origin that will allow Orpheus to engage from any data center in the world if loss occurs.

Shields for All

Orpheus and Tiered Cache can combine to build an adaptive shield around an origin that caches as much as possible while improving traffic back to origin. Tiered Cache topologies allow for customers to deflect much of their static traffic away from their origin to reduce load, and Orpheus helps ensure that any traffic that has to go back to the origin traverses over highly available links.

Improving origin performance for everyone

The Internet is a growing, ever-changing ecosystem. With the release of Orpheus and Tiered Cache for everyone, we’ve given you the ability to navigate whatever the Internet has in store to provide the best possible experience to your customers.

Introducing: Smarter Tiered Cache Topology Generation

Post Syndicated from Alex Krivit original https://blog.cloudflare.com/introducing-smarter-tiered-cache-topology-generation/

Introducing: Smarter Tiered Cache Topology Generation

Introducing: Smarter Tiered Cache Topology Generation

Caching is a magic trick. Instead of a customer’s origin responding to every request, Cloudflare’s 200+ data centers around the world respond with content that is cached geographically close to visitors. This dramatically improves the load performance for web pages while decreasing the bandwidth costs by having Cloudflare respond to a request with cached content.

However, if content is not in cache, Cloudflare data centers must contact the origin server to receive the content. This isn’t as fast as delivering content from cache. It also places load on an origin server, and is more costly compared to serving directly from cache. These issues can be amplified depending on the geographic distribution of a website’s visitors, the number of data centers contacting the origin, and the available origin resources for responding to requests.

To decrease the number of times our network of data centers communicate with an origin, we organize data centers into tiers so that only upper-tier data centers can request content from an origin and then they spread content to lower tiers. This means content that loads faster for visitors, is cheaper to serve, and reduces origin resource consumption.

Today, I’m thrilled to announce a fundamental improvement to Argo Tiered Cache we’re calling Smart Tiered Cache Topology. When enabled, Argo Tiered Cache will now dynamically select the single best upper tier for each of your website’s origins while providing tiered cache analytics showing how your custom topology is performing.

Smarter Tiered Cache Topology Generation

Tiered Cache is part of Argo, a constellation of products that analyzes and optimizes routing decisions across the global Internet in real-time by processing information from every Cloudflare request to determine which routes to an origin are fast, which are slow, and what the optimum path from visitor to content is at any given moment. Previously, Argo Tiered Cache would use a static collection of upper-tier data centers to communicate with the origin. With the improvements we’re announcing today, Tiered Cache can now dynamically find the single best upper tier for an origin using Argo performance and routing data. When Argo is enabled and a request for particular content is made, we collect latency data for each request to pick the optimal path. Using this latency data, we can determine how well any upper-tier data center is connected with an origin and can empirically select the best data center with the lowest latency to be the upper tier for an origin.

Argo Tiered Cache

Taking one step back, tiered caching is a practice where Cloudflare’s network of global data centers are subdivided into a hierarchy of upper tiers and lower tiers. In order to control bandwidth and number of connections between an origin and Cloudflare, only upper tiers are permitted to request content from an origin and must propagate that information to the lower tiers. In this way, Cloudflare data centers first talk to each other to find content before asking the origin. This practice improves bandwidth efficiency by limiting the number of data centers that can ask the origin for content, reduces origin load, and makes websites more cost-effective to operate. Argo Tiered Cache customers only pay for data transfer between the client and edge, and we take care of the rest. Tiered caching also allows for improved performance for visitors, because distances and links traversed between Cloudflare data centers are generally shorter and faster than the links between data centers and origins.

Introducing: Smarter Tiered Cache Topology Generation

Previously, when Argo Tiered Cache was enabled for a website, several of Cloudflare’s largest and most-connected data centers were determined to be upper tiers and could pull content from an origin on a cache MISS. While utilizing a topology consisting of numerous upper-tier data centers may be globally performant, we found that cost-sensitive customers generally wanted to find the single best upper tier for their origin to ensure efficient data transfer of their content to Cloudflare’s network. We built Smart Tiered Cache Topology for this reason.

How to enable Smart Tiered Cache Topology

When you enable Argo Tiered Cache, Cloudflare now by default concentrates connections to origin servers so they come from a single data center. This is done without needing to work with our Customer Success or Solutions Engineering organization to custom configure the best single upper tier. Argo customers can generate this topology by:

  • Logging into your Cloudflare account.
  • Navigating to the Traffic tab in the dashboard.
  • Ensuring you have Argo enabled.
  • From there, Non-Enterprise Argo customers will automatically be enrolled in Smart Tiered Cache Topology without needing to make any additional changes.

Enterprise customers can select the type of topology they’d like to generate.

Introducing: Smarter Tiered Cache Topology Generation

Self-serve Argo customers are automatically enrolled in Smart Tiered Cache Topology

Introducing: Smarter Tiered Cache Topology Generation

Enterprise customers can determine the tiered cache topology that works best for them.

More data, fewer problems

Once enabled, in addition to performance and cost improvements, Smart Tiered Cache Topology also delivers summary analytics for how the upper tiers are performing so that you can monitor the cost and performance benefits your website is receiving. These analytics are available in the Cache Tab of the dashboard in the Tiered Cache section. The “Primary Data Center” and “Secondary Data Center” fields show you which data centers were determined to be the best upper tier and failover for your origin. “Cached Hits” and the “Hit Ratio” shows you the proportion of requests that were served by the upper tier and how many needed to be forwarded on to the origin for a response. “Bytes Saved” indicates the total transfer from the upper-tier data center to the lower tiers, showing the total bandwidth saved by having Cloudflare’s lower tier data centers ask the upper tiers for the content instead of the origin.

Introducing: Smarter Tiered Cache Topology Generation

Smart Tiered Cache Topology works with Cloudflare’s existing products to deliver you a seamless, easy, and performant experience that saves you money and provides you useful information about how your upper tiers are working with your origins. Smart Tiered Cache Topology stands on the shoulders of some of the most resilient and useful products at Cloudflare to provide even more benefits to webmasters.

If you’re interested in seeing how Argo and Smart Tiered Cache Topology can benefit your web property, please login to your Cloudflare account and find more information in the Traffic tab of the dashboard here.

Tiered Cache Smart Topology

Post Syndicated from Brian Bradley original https://blog.cloudflare.com/tiered-cache-smart-topology/

Tiered Cache Smart Topology

Tiered Cache Smart Topology

A few years ago, we released Argo to help make the Internet faster and more efficient. Argo observes network conditions and finds the optimal route across the Internet for origin server requests, avoiding congestion along the way.

Tiered Cache is an Argo feature that reduces the number of data centers responsible for requesting assets from the origin. With Tiered Cache active, a request in South Africa won’t go directly to an origin in North America, but, instead, look in a large, nearby data center to see if the data requested is cached there first. The number and location of the data centers used by Tiered Cache is controlled by a piece of configuration called the topology. By default, we use a generic topology for every customer that strikes a balance between cache hit ratios and latency that is suitable for most users.

Today we’re introducing Smart Topology, which maximizes cache hit ratios by building on Argo’s internal infrastructure to identify the single best data center for making requests to the origin.

Standard Cache

The standard method for caching assets is to let each data center be a reverse proxy for the origin server. In this scheme, a miss in any data center causes a request to the origin for an asset. A request to the origin for one asset could be made as many times as there are data centers.

Tiered Cache Smart Topology

A cache miss in any data center will result in a request being sent to the origin server even if the asset is cached in some other data center. This is because the data centers are completely oblivious of each other.

Theoretically, a request for the asset would have to be sent to every data center in order to reduce the cache misses to the minimum possible. However, sending every request to every data center is not practical.

The minimum possible cache hit latency is achieved if the asset is moved into the nearest cache before the request for it is made, but this kind of prediction is generally not possible. Instead, a good heuristic is to move the asset into the nearest cache after the first cache miss.

However, the asset has to be copied from somewhere and it isn’t possible to know where in the network it might be without querying each data center.

To avoid querying each data center, a copy of the asset has to be stored in a known location after the first cache miss so it is available to other data centers. This is precisely what Tiered Cache does.

Tiered Cache

Tiered Cache improves cache hit ratios by allowing some data centers to serve as caches for others, before the latter has to make a request to the origin. With Tiered Cache, certain data centers are reverse proxies to the origin for other data centers.

Tiered Cache Smart Topology

If the proxied data centers make requests for the same asset, the asset will already be cached in the proxying data center and can be retrieved from there rather than from the origin. Fewer requests to the origin are made overall.

Custom Topology

In Tiered Cache, the topology describes which data center should serve as a proxy for others.

For customers, devising an optimal topology is a challenge requiring optimization and continuous maintenance. The best topology is a configuration based on information that is privately held by the customer and other information held only by Cloudflare.

For instance, knowing the desired balance of latency versus cache hit ratio is information only the customer has, but how to best make use of the Internet is something we would know. Enterprise customers usually have dedicated infrastructure teams that work with our solutions engineers to manually optimize and maintain their tiered cache topology.

Not every customer would want to personalize their topology. For this reason a generic topology exists.

Generic Topology

The generic topology is designed to achieve good latency and cache efficiency for any origin, regardless of location. A balance is struck between two constraints —  cache efficiency and  latency.

The generic topology has multiple proxying data centers that are distributed around the world in order to ensure that requests that result in a cache miss do not take a very long detour before going to the origin. There is a balance between the number of proxying data centers and the cache hit ratio, because the proxying data centers are oblivious to each other.

If a proxying data center is taken offline, the proxied data centers either use a fallback (if the fallback is online) or revert to behaving like Tiered Cache is disabled.

To achieve the best balance for general usage, the generic topology instructs the smaller data centers to be proxied by the larger data centers in the same geographic region.

Smart Topology

Smart Topology assumes the origin is in one place and then automatically configures itself to be optimal once the customer just flips a switch in the dashboard. In order to actually do this, Cloudflare needs to be able to determine which data center has the lowest latency to the origin without making the customer tell Cloudflare where the origin is.

Methods for Latency Determination

There are a few ways to determine which data center has the lowest latency with respect to the origin.

IP geolocation
Physical distance can be used as an approximation for latency, but Smart Topology was not built this way for a couple of reasons. First, even the best commercial IP geo database doesn’t have the required coverage and accuracy. Second, even with perfect accuracy, physical distance is a questionable approximation of Internet latency.

Probing
Latency to an IP address can be determined exactly by probing that address. The probe can just be the time required to perform the TCP handshake. Each data center probes the origin so that the latencies can be directly measured and the minimum can be found. Except for edge cases involving Anycast and TCP termination, we can assume that the latency to an IP address is the same as the latency to the origin server behind that IP address.

Topology Selection Algorithm

The goal of the topology selection algorithm is to minimize cache misses and latency. The topology chooses a single proxying data center in order to maximize the cache hit ratio. The proxying data center is chosen to be close to the origin so that the latencies of cache misses in the proxied data centers are not much worse than they would be with tiered cache turned off.

The choice should eventually become stable. Stability is important because each time the choice changes, cache misses in proxied data centers are likely to cause cache misses in the new proxying data center. Capacity is important because when a data center goes offline, it can cause a large number of cache misses. Minimizing latency to the origin is important to ensure that the network is used efficiently.

The data center selection algorithm is rather like a leaderboard of the fastest data center for each origin. As data is collected, a faster data center can knock others off a given origin’s leaderboard. This competition is based on the 24 hour median latency and is held each hour. Only a subset of data centers deemed large enough are permitted to compete.

Eventually, the choice for proxying data centers becomes stable. Over time, data centers produce competing records for each origin and less competitive records in the leaderboard are replaced as necessary. Thus, latencies for any origin on the leaderboard can only monotonically decrease. There are always physical limits in the real world, so eventually the ideal data center will set a record that is too good to beat.

Also, the leaderboard actually includes both the lowest latency data center and the second lowest latency data center. The second lowest latency data center serves as a fallback if the preferred data center is taken offline for maintenance.

Anycast Networks
We are measuring the latency to the origin IP address and assuming that it represents the latency to the origin server, but this can break down in certain cases. A few cloud providers other than Cloudflare also use Anycast technology to provide their services. In Anycast, multiple machines can share an IP address regardless of where they are connected to the Internet, and the Internet will typically route packets destined for that address to the closest machine. If an Anycast network is used to proxy an origin server, then the apparent latency to the IP address for the origin server is actually the latency to the edge of the Anycast network rather than the latency to the origin server. The real latency to the origin server cannot be determined by probing.

Tiered Cache Smart Topology

The algorithm would fail to select the single best proxying data center if the latencies are not representative of the actual latency between data center and origin. Selecting the wrong data center would adversely affect latencies for requests to the origin, and could be expensive.

For instance, imagine a cloud provider provides an IP address that actually routes to multiple data centers all over the world. Packets are routed through private infrastructure to the correct destination once they enter the network. The lowest latency data center to this Anycast IP address could potentially even be on a different continent than the actual origin server. Therefore, the apparent latency cannot actually be trusted as a true measure of actual latency to the origin.

The data center selection algorithm assumes that the origin is in a single geographic location and can be probed to determine latency from each data center. These networks break one or both of these assumptions, so a procedure had to be developed in order to detect them. First, it is assumed that the IP appears in a single geographic location and is not proxied by such a network. The latency to the origin is bounded by the speed of light through fiber. Although the distance between any data center and the origin server is not known, the distances between data centers is known by Cloudflare.

Tiered Cache Smart Topology

Imagine putting the origin server as a pitstop in that journey. Then, the theoretical minimum possible observable pair of latencies between the origin server and any two data centers can be computed. We have the latency probe data from both of these data centers and the origin, so we can check to see whether the observed latency is lower than what is possible.

The original assumption was that the origin IP address identifies an origin server that is in one location and the latency to that IP address is the latency to the origin server. If the observed latencies are faster than light then clearly the assumption is false. Smart Topology falls back to the generic topology when the original assumption does not hold. To be extra sure, we check this constraint on a bunch of data centers around the world and fall back if there is even a single physically impossible observation.

The Big Picture

When Smart Topology is enabled many Cloudflare systems work together to ensure the correct data center is eventually used to request assets from the origin.

Tiered Cache Smart Topology

When the customer enables Tiered Cache Smart Topology, one of a few things can happen from the perspective of the origin. If a proxying data center has already been assigned to the CIDR block that encompasses the origin IP, the preferred or fallback data center is used to request assets from the origin. Otherwise, the generic topology is used to determine which proxying data centers to use to pull assets from the origin. The latency to the proxying data center should only decrease as the choice for proxying data center is updated over time.

Conclusion

Developing this technology offered a lot of opportunities to exercise great engineering and build an impactful product. It was not done in a vacuum; we used infrastructure that Cloudflare had already built, and we moved along that exponential gradient of using existing progress to make more progress. Building this framework opens a lot of doors to future progress too; for instance, in the future, we can explore ways to select the ideal proxying data center even for origins behind Anycast networks that hide the true latency to the origin.