SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Zakia Bouachraoui, Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez, Roger Strukhoff, David Linthicum

Blog Feed Post

What Ops Needs to Know about APIs and Compression

I’ve been reading up on APIs cause, coolness. And in particular I really enjoyed reading Best Practices for Designing a Pragmatic RESTful API because it had a lot of really good information and advice.

And then I got to the part about compressing your APIs.

Before we go too far let me first say I’m not saying you shouldn’t compress your API or app responses. You probably should. What I am saying is that where you compress data and when are important considerations.

That’s because generally speaking no one has put their web server (which is ultimately what tends to serve up responses, whether they’re APIs or objects, XML or JSON) at the edge of the Internet. You know, where it’s completely vulnerable. It’s usually several devices back in the networking gauntlet that has be run before data gets from the edge of your network to the server.

wrong architectureThis is because there are myriad bad actors out salivating at the prospect of a return to an early aughts data center architecture in which firewalls, DDoS protection, and other app security services were not physically and logically located upstream from the apps they protect today.

Cause if you don’t have to navigate the network, it’s way easier to launch an attack on an app.

Today, we employ an average of 11 different services in the network, upstream from the app, to provide security, scale, and performance-enhancing services. Like compression. better architecture 

Now, you can enable compression on the web server. It’s a standard thing in HTTP and it’s little more than a bit to flip in the configuration. Easy peasy performance-enhancing change, right?

Except that today that’s not always true.

The primary reason compression improves performance is because when it reduces the size of data it reduces the number of packets that must be transmitted. That reduces the potential for congestion that causes a Catch-22 where TCP retransmits increase congestion that increases packet loss that increases… well, you get the picture. This is particularly true when mobile clients are connecting via cellular networks, because latency is a real issue for them and the more round trips it takes, the worse the application experience.

Suffice to say that the primary reason compression improves performance is that it reduces the amount of data needing to be transmitted which means “faster” delivery to the client. Fewer packets = less time = happier users.

That’s a good thing. Except when compression gets in the way or doesn’t provide any real reduction that would improve performance.

What? How can that be, you ask.

Remember that we’re looking for compression to reduce the number of packets transmitted, especially when it has to traverse a higher latency, lower capacity link between the data center and the client.

It turns out that sometimes compression doesn’t really help with that.

Consider the aforementioned article and its section on compressing. The author ran some tests, and concluded that compression of text-based data produces some really awesome results:

Let's look at this with a real world example. I've pulled some data from GitHub's API, which uses pretty print by default. I'll also be doing some gzip comparisons:


$ curl https://api.github.com/users/veesahni > with-whitespace.txt
$ ruby -r json -e 'puts JSON JSON.parse(STDIN.read)' < with-whitespace.txt > without-whitespace.txt
$ gzip -c with-whitespace.txt > with-whitespace.txt.gz
$ gzip -c without-whitespace.txt > without-whitespace.txt.gz

The output files have the following sizes:

  • without-whitespace.txt - 1252 bytes
  • with-whitespace.txt - 1369 bytes
  • without-whitespace.txt.gz - 496 bytes
  • with-whitespace.txt.gz - 509 bytes

In this example, the whitespace increased the output size by 8.5% when gzip is not in play and 2.6% when gzip is in play. On the other hand, the act of gzipping in itself provided over 60% in bandwidth savings. Since the cost of pretty printing is relatively small, it's best to pretty print by default and ensure gzip compression is supported!

To further hammer in this point, Twitter found that there was an 80% savings (in some cases)when enabling gzip compression on their Streaming API. Stack Exchange went as far as to never return a response that's not compressed!

 

Wow! I mean, from a purely mathematical perspective, that’s some awesome results. And the author is correct in saying it will provide bandwidth savings.

What those results won’t necessarily do is improve performance because the original size of the file was already less than the MSS for a single packet. Which means compressed or not, that data takes exactly one packet to transmit. That’s it. I won’t bore you with the mathematics, but the speed of light and networking says one packet takes the same amount of time to transit whether it’s got 496 bytes of payload or 1396 bytes of payload. The typical MSS for Ethernet packets is 1460 bytes, which means compressing something smaller than that effectively nets you nothing in terms of performance. It’s like a plane. It takes as long to fly from point A to point B whether there are 14 passengers or 140. Fuel efficiency (bandwidth) is impacted, but that doesn’t really change performance, just the cost.

Furthermore, compressing the payload at the web server means that web app security services upstream have to decompress if they want to do their job, which is to say scan responses for sensitive or excessive data indicative of a breach of security policies. This is a big deal, kids. 42% of respondents in our annual State of Application Delivery survey always scan responses as part of their overall attack-surfaces-soad-2016security strategy to prevent data leaks. Which means they have to spend extra time to decompress the data to evaluate it and then recompress it, or perhaps they can’t inspect it at all.

Now, that said, bandwidth savings are a good thing. It’s part of any comprehensive scaling strategy to consider the impact of increasing use of an app on bandwidth. And a clogged up network can impact performance negatively so compression is a good idea. But not necessarily at the web server. This is akin to carefully considering where you enforce SSL/TLS security measures, as there are similar impacts on security services upstream from the app / web server.

That’s why the right place for compression and SSL/TLS is generally upstream, in the network, after security has checked out the response and it’s actually ready to be delivered to the client. That’s usually the load balancing service or the ADC, where compression can not only be applied most efficiently and without interfering with security services and offsetting the potential gains by forcing extra processing upstream.

As with rate limiting APIs, it’s not always a matter of whether or not you should, it’s a matter of where you should.

Architecture, not algorithms, are the key to scale and performance of modern applications. 

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

Latest Stories
Moroccanoil®, the global leader in oil-infused beauty, is thrilled to announce the NEW Moroccanoil Color Depositing Masks, a collection of dual-benefit hair masks that deposit pure pigments while providing the treatment benefits of a deep conditioning mask. The collection consists of seven curated shades for commitment-free, beautifully-colored hair that looks and feels healthy.
The textured-hair category is inarguably the hottest in the haircare space today. This has been driven by the proliferation of founder brands started by curly and coily consumers and savvy consumers who increasingly want products specifically for their texture type. This trend is underscored by the latest insights from NaturallyCurly's 2018 TextureTrends report, released today. According to the 2018 TextureTrends Report, more than 80 percent of women with curly and coily hair say they purcha...
The textured-hair category is inarguably the hottest in the haircare space today. This has been driven by the proliferation of founder brands started by curly and coily consumers and savvy consumers who increasingly want products specifically for their texture type. This trend is underscored by the latest insights from NaturallyCurly's 2018 TextureTrends report, released today. According to the 2018 TextureTrends Report, more than 80 percent of women with curly and coily hair say they purcha...
We all love the many benefits of natural plant oils, used as a deap treatment before shampooing, at home or at the beach, but is there an all-in-one solution for everyday intensive nutrition and modern styling?I am passionate about the benefits of natural extracts with tried-and-tested results, which I have used to develop my own brand (lemon for its acid ph, wheat germ for its fortifying action…). I wanted a product which combined caring and styling effects, and which could be used after shampo...
The precious oil is extracted from the seeds of prickly pear cactus plant. After taking out the seeds from the fruits, they are adequately dried and then cold pressed to obtain the oil. Indeed, the prickly seed oil is quite expensive. Well, that is understandable when you consider the fact that the seeds are really tiny and each seed contain only about 5% of oil in it at most, plus the seeds are usually handpicked from the fruits. This means it will take tons of these seeds to produce just one b...
Steaz, the nation's top-selling organic and fair trade green-tea-based beverage company, announces its 2017 "Mind. Body. Soul." tour, which will bring authentic experiences inspired by the brand's signature Mind. Body. Soul. tagline to life across the country. The tour will inform, educate, inspire and entertain through events, digital activations and partner-curated experiences developed to support the three pillars of complete health and wellness.
The platform combines the strengths of Singtel's extensive, intelligent network capabilities with Microsoft's cloud expertise to create a unique solution that sets new standards for IoT applications," said Mr Diomedes Kastanis, Head of IoT at Singtel. "Our solution provides speed, transparency and flexibility, paving the way for a more pervasive use of IoT to accelerate enterprises' digitalisation efforts. AI-powered intelligent connectivity over Microsoft Azure will be the fastest connected pat...
There are many examples of disruption in consumer space – Uber disrupting the cab industry, Airbnb disrupting the hospitality industry and so on; but have you wondered who is disrupting support and operations? AISERA helps make businesses and customers successful by offering consumer-like user experience for support and operations. We have built the world’s first AI-driven IT / HR / Cloud / Customer Support and Operations solution.
ScaleMP is presenting at CloudEXPO 2019, held June 24-26 in Santa Clara, and we’d love to see you there. At the conference, we’ll demonstrate how ScaleMP is solving one of the most vexing challenges for cloud — memory cost and limit of scale — and how our innovative vSMP MemoryONE solution provides affordable larger server memory for the private and public cloud. Please visit us at Booth No. 519 to connect with our experts and learn more about vSMP MemoryONE and how it is already serving some of...
Darktrace is the world's leading AI company for cyber security. Created by mathematicians from the University of Cambridge, Darktrace's Enterprise Immune System is the first non-consumer application of machine learning to work at scale, across all network types, from physical, virtualized, and cloud, through to IoT and industrial control systems. Installed as a self-configuring cyber defense platform, Darktrace continuously learns what is ‘normal' for all devices and users, updating its understa...
Codete accelerates their clients growth through technological expertise and experience. Codite team works with organizations to meet the challenges that digitalization presents. Their clients include digital start-ups as well as established enterprises in the IT industry. To stay competitive in a highly innovative IT industry, strong R&D departments and bold spin-off initiatives is a must. Codete Data Science and Software Architects teams help corporate clients to stay up to date with the mod...
As you know, enterprise IT conversation over the past year have often centered upon the open-source Kubernetes container orchestration system. In fact, Kubernetes has emerged as the key technology -- and even primary platform -- of cloud migrations for a wide variety of organizations. Kubernetes is critical to forward-looking enterprises that continue to push their IT infrastructures toward maximum functionality, scalability, and flexibility. As they do so, IT professionals are also embr...
Platform9, the leader in SaaS-managed hybrid cloud, has announced it will present five sessions at four upcoming industry conferences in June: BCS in London, DevOpsCon in Berlin, HPE Discover and Cloud Computing Expo 2019.
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throug...
When you're operating multiple services in production, building out forensics tools such as monitoring and observability becomes essential. Unfortunately, it is a real challenge balancing priorities between building new features and tools to help pinpoint root causes. Linkerd provides many of the tools you need to tame the chaos of operating microservices in a cloud native world. Because Linkerd is a transparent proxy that runs alongside your application, there are no code changes required. I...