February 23, 2019

Netli, Linux Take Web to Warp Speeds

The Joys of Sublight

  • July 7, 2003
  • By Brian Proffitt

In physics, distance in space often translates into longer durations of time. The farther you go, the longer it will take you to get there. Unless you change the way you're going.

If a new video store opens up a mile farther from your home than the one you usually go to, you would have to walk the extra 20 minutes or so to get there--or you could simply jump in your car or a cab and take only another minute or so to peruse this new store's video collection.

The Internet, too, is afflicted by the distance/time problem. Even though data moves at very close to the speed of light, we all constantly run into examples of distance-induced delays. If I were to pull up a Web page from a server in Chicago, in less than an eyeblink it will be in my Mozilla browser, because Chicago is right up the pipe that services my hometown. If I tried to pull the same size page from a similarly powered computer in Malaysia, however, I can reasonably expect delays of 4, 6, even 9 seconds before the page content even hits my browser.

Nine seconds is not a lot of time in the grand scheme of our lives, and occasional delays of this nature seem acceptable to us as we surf around the world. But if you are running a site where commerce or connectivity is absolutely paramount, nine seconds is an eternity where customers can get dropped, packets lost, and all the other problems that can occur with lengthy HTTP requests. Multiply that nine seconds by millions of page views per day, and pretty soon you are talking real money lost to the ether.

Distance equals time, and time, as always, equals money.

To change the way the Internet handles data would be like changing the laws of physics around us; you can build more pipes, you can build better software, but the fundemental infrastructure for getting data from point A to points B though 1AZZ is still the same.

But one Silicon Valley company is achieving the impossible, using the same infrastruture, to get global round trips for Web page delivery consistently down to less than one second. Time after time.

Their secret? A new way of delivering data over the same pipes, and the customability of Linux.

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