Making the web faster with SPDY

The past year has seen substantial adoption on the web of a new protocol called SPDY (pronounced “speedy”), mostly being pushed by Google.

If you haven’t heard of it, SPDY aims to improve the use of HTTP, the usual protocol for delivering web pages from servers to browsers. SPDY is exciting because it should make the web feel faster on modern high-speed connections, and improve security by making encryption ubiquitous.

Up until fairly recently, SPDY remained something of a technical curiosity as it wasn’t widely supported. Both the server and the browser need to talk SPDY for it to work, which meant the benefits were mostly restricted to using Google Chrome with Google’s own services.

That’s turned around in the last 12 months as several high profile sites are now SPDY-capable on their servers (Twitter, Facebook, WordPress.com), and current versions of the most popular browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Opera) know how to make requests using SPDY.

Fantastic you say, but what does that have to do with Anchor? Well, the good news is that Anchor’s servers now support SPDY. As part of our recently announced support for Debian wheezy we can provide nginx with SPDY support. There’s very few websites that can’t run on nginx, which means the benefits are accessible to pretty much any website, right now.

That’s good on paper, but the question remains how it stacks up in a real deployment. Things don’t always come up rosy in testing, and if nothing else it shows that there are plenty of ways to get it wrong. A fast website isn’t just a matter of using a better webserver, it requires planning and management to make sure you’re not bottlenecking yourself unexpectedly.

One of our customers is already using SPDY and graciously provided us with some feedback on the improvements. To be honest we were pleased and quite surprised, the improvements are perceptible and significant.

spdy_speedups

Even just glancing at the graphs, the improvements are big. The best improvements are in the order of 2-3x faster, and the already-fast browsers still see gains. This isn’t highly controlled scientific testing, but the trend is quite clear.

We’re looking forward to seeing increased adoption of SPDY across the web and we’re glad to be a small part of it. If you have any questions or want to know more about our support, feel free to give us a call (1300 883 979 in Australia, +61 2 8296 5111 from overseas) or drop us a mail.