At A2 Hosting we were one of the first hosts to recognize the potential of CloudFlare’s CDN for our customers. If you’re not already aware, CloudFlare brings the benefits of a Content Delivery Network — usually reserved for enterprises — to the average person, for prices as low as free. But normally CDNs have a big limitation; which is that they can only cache static content. If a page is changing all the time, they can’t cache a copy of it for days at a time. They need to show users the latest version of that page at all times.
Well the folks at CloudFlare have been working on a solution to this, and are now unleashing Railgun. This is a premium product for professional customers who want to speed up their dynamic content. It’s a sophisticated system with a lot of intelligent things going on behind the scenes. But put simply, it uses software running within your datacenter to stay in constant communication with CloudFlare’s network, allowing CloudFlare to very rapidly bring changes — and only the changes — in your dynamic content into the CDN.
In more detail, a sender runs on CloudFlare’s network, which maintains a persistent binary connection to a listener running on your datacenter (or in ours, in the case of our customers, potentially.) When a visitor requests a dynamic page from your site, the sender requests any changes to that page from the listener. If there are any, only those changes are sent across the connection and the finalized page is delivered to the visitor via CloudFlare’s worldwide network; ensuring the minimum number of hops between the user and the content.
We think this is really cool, and can’t wait to try it out ourselves. Shortly thereafter, of course, we want to bring it to our customers and make it available to those customers for whom it’s a good fit. As this is a premium product, it’s not for everyone. But for those operating on more of a budget, CloudFlare’s traditional CDN functionality is highly affordable, or even free depending on your needs.
Learn more about how Railgun Hosting can boost the performance of your site.