EdgeMesh: Dynamic Web Acceleration at the Edge

EdgeMesh is a startup founded by industry veterans that has created new application acceleration technology complementary to modern CDN solutions, but adds materially to application performance. EdgeMesh takes advantage of inexpensive virtual servers (e.g., MobiledgeX Cloudlets) to deploy content servers that use new communications links to a browser that are not constrained by TCP/IP performance limitations, and use them to preload a browser cache in anticipation of need, thereby significantly improving page load times.

The most severe constraint to the usability of remotely accessed applications has always been network latency.  In the 20 years since the first CDN, computer technology has improved by a factor of a thousand (“Moore’s Law” progress except for network performance. Better semiconductors can’t increase the speed of light or the speed of network data over optical links.

CDN’s improve application performance by caching popular content nearer to users than the origin server (lowering latency). EdgeMesh is addressing a somewhat different, but related, aspect of application performance, and taking advantage of the changes in browser technology and use that have occured over the last 20 years. Specifically, computers are 1,000 times more powerful so browser based applications are a lot more powerful as well. And in that time browser sophistication has grown to make it easier to implement full device applications in HTML. Of specific importance here, modern browsers provide alternative communications channels between the server and the browser.

The Problem

Despite all the advances in technology over the last 20 years, the interactive performance of web applications still leaves much to be desired, in no small part because network latency hasn’t improved with technology. CDN acceleration is also limited by the notion of reuse -- CDN’s are effective when lots of people in one part of the Internet want to access to same content, but of little benefit for the first time access or for he access of less popular content.

The Solution

EdgeMesh reexamined the modern web acceleration context and took advantage of the changes since CDN’s began. Specifically, compared to 20 years ago, servers (content replicas) are three orders of magnitude (1,000X) cheaper, and user devices are three orders of magnitude more powerful. With cheaper and virtual servers, EdgeMesh is able to deploy content replicas pretty much wherever they want without having to ship and install physical servers.  Because user devices are so much more powerful, browser (HTML) based applications in many case can be full alternatives to “native” device applications.

Finally, EdgeMesh takes advantage of the new communications capability in modern HTML5 browsers that let the serve establish a connection to the browser “out of band” with the HTTP/TCP/IP channel by which the main content is accessed. By using this alternative channel (which can be invoked with simple additions to the server content) EdgeMesh can communicate with the browser at higher speed, using protocols like UDP rather than TCP/IP, and the channel can be used to preload content into the browser cache in anticipation of its need, using link capacity that otherwise would be idle.

Using inexpensive or virtual servers, EdgeMesh can preposition content nearer uses (“nearer” as measured in network performance) including within mobile networks using MobiledgeX Cloudlet deployment.  These content servers very significantly improve application performance that is otherwise limited by large data transfer, and can gather valuable usage data about who is using the application as well.  To make this work, EdgeMesh maintains a performance map of the various networks in the area so it can make an optimal choice about where to source content for a particular browser.

Using MobiledgeX, EdgeMesh can deploy these content servers deep within mobile operator infrastructure nearer to the user (latency) than has been possible ever before.

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