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Big Data Journal: Article

When CDNs and SSL Bring Down Your Site

Lessons learned from Doritos and Esurance during the Super Bowl

We first discussed Super Bowl lessons learned around bloated web pages that brought down sites like Kia.com. On the other side, GoDaddy did a great job in reducing the page load just for the time of the Super Bowl to ensure that their site wouldn't go down.

But there is more to learn from than bloated websites: Esurance, for example, was impacted by their choice of CDN Partner which didn't scale as needed and impacted page load time. Securing page content via SSL was done by three companies. Doritos did it in a way that their page load time was about 400% slower than Hyundai or TurboTax who also decided to go SSL.

Lesson #3: Determine if your CDN Partner will do right for your business
Include your CDN partners in your test and develop strategy, but also extend your mindset to ensure they are the right partners for your business. Without establishing confidence in your CDN partner, it's possible that under extreme load conditions your CDN won't have what it takes to get you into the end zone. This was likely the case for esurance.com as game time approached.

What we observed during game time on esurance.com was access failures across both web and mobile sites - unreachable content is one way to describe the scenario.

esurance.com unreachable content across web and mobile touch points

For all of esurance.com's assets, it was not enough to control the factors behind its firewall. In this case, they needed to be able to mitigate the risks encompassing all its assets, especially those controlled by third-party partners including CDNs.

It's worth making this point - any one asset can weaken your site's performance or take it completely down. Sure, service level agreements with partners may let you point the finger, but from the end user's point of view, and especially from a branding perspective, there is a zero-degree of separation between you and your customer.

How can CDN deployment performance be measured? With RUM and Synthetic monitoring, it's easy to track host content by IP address to see how your CDN is shaping traffic and its effects on site performance. In esurance.com's case, charting response time by IP Address maps to its CDN partner IP's. Below, we see that site response time was high, which ultimately led to unreachable content. By validating your CDN's performance by Host/IP Address is really the only true way to ‘see your CDN' in action.

High response times mapped to CDN Host IP Addresses; each color represents a different destination IP Address.

Tips for Business
Identify the regions where you expect your end users to be accessing your site from. Set up tests that test your site from these geographical locations and verify response times from the CDN providers.

Also check out Outage Analyzer - a free service that gives you a good overview of service quality of third party and CDN providers worldwide. Make smart choices that are best for your end users.

To read more, and get more insights, click here for the full article

More Stories By Gregory Speckhart

Gregory Speckhart is a Senior APM Solutions Consultant at Compuware.

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