Apache Traffic Server 3.0 Accelerates Performance

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted Jun 17, 2011


When it comes to serving web traffic, more is usually better for a web server. The new Apache Traffic Server 3.0.0 release can handle more then 200,000 requests per second, which developers note is a 277 percent improvement over Traffic Server 2.0. New release of open source proxy caching server promises a nearly threefold improvement in requests per second.

The new Apache Traffic Server 3.0.0 release is the first since 2.0 came out in 2010 when the project became a Top Level Apache Project. The Traffic Server has its roots in Yahoo, where it is used to handle the massive traffic volumes that Yahoo must serve.

"Becoming a top-level project has allowed us to reach a broader community and therefore also attract many talented developers," Apache Traffic Server Vice President Leif Hedstrom told InternetNews.com. "It also allowed us to reach outside the U.S., and as a result, we're seeing many users and developers joining the community from Europe and Asia."

In terms of how the Apache Traffic Server 3.0.0 release achieved the big performance gains over the previous release, Hedstrom noted there are two primary improvements that made the most difference. The first is fine tuning algorithms and code. The second major issue was isolating and eliminating bottlenecks that prevented the server from scaling to the large number of CPU cores that modern hardware has. Hedstrom noted that these improvements included eliminating unnecessary memory allocations, for example.

"The fundamental design and architecture of Traffic Server did not have to change to achieve these significant performance improvements," Hedstrom said. "We still have plenty of work to do, but the improvements clearly show that our platform is solid and that we'll be able to work with this architecture to scale with future hardware improvements."

In addition to the performance gains, Apache Traffic Server 3.0.0 also adds support for the Web Cache Communication Protocol (WCCP).

"With the addition of transparent proxy, WCCP becomes a natural extension," Hedstrom said. "It allows our software to interoperate with routers in a natural way. "

Hedstrom added that the transparent proxy is an important addition, since it opens up the doors for small and large ISPs to use the Traffic Server software. Porting the software to most common Unix platform has also been a great success, allowing non-Linux users to join the Apache Traffic Server community.

"Our improvements to fully support 64-bit platforms are also critical; this further allows us to scale on very large enterprise scale systems," Hedstrom said.

The Apache Traffic Server is one of several open source proxy caching servers currently out in the market. Others include Squid and the Varnish Cache project, which this week also hit its 3.0 release.

"Varnish is a similar technology to traffic server, and both have advantages and disadvantages for different problems," Hedstrom said. "It's important to understand what problem you are trying to solve, and apply the most appropriate solution to that problem. It could be Squid, Varnish, Nginx or Apache Traffic Server. They all have their pros and cons."

Moving forward, Hedstrom noted that the Traffic Server project is just about starting up the plans for v3.2 and v3.4, and as such it's a little early to say exactly what will go into what version.

"One thing that is almost certain is that we'll try to go for shorter release cycles of our major releases," Hedstrom said. "The goal is to do major releases twice a year, with incremental (patch) releases as often as necessary in between."

Hedstrom noted that the "release often and release early" methodology worked very well during the development process of v3.0.0, where the project released a total of 10 versions before the final v3.0.0 release.

In terms of his wish list for future releases of Traffic Server, Hedstrom includes a rewrite of the DNS codes as well as complete IPv6 support. Hedstrom also hopes to make Traffic Server easier to use.

"This is our main problem right now, it's currently too difficult to get started with Apache Traffic Server," Hedstrom said. "I think our growing community is a great asset here, and we'll provide better documentations as well as better tools."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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