Google gives Apache a SPDY boost

Google's SPDY protocol could speed delivery of Web pages from Apache servers

As part of their effort to speed delivery of Web pages, Google engineers have released a module for the Apache Web server software that augments the basic protocols used for carrying Web traffic across the Internet.

On Tuesday, Google released a module for Apache that will allow servers to send Web pages to browsers using the company's SPDY protocol. In some cases, using SPDY could cut the time it takes to deliver a Web page by more than 50 percent, Google engineers claimed in a blog posting announcing the release.

For Google, the release is a big step in an ongoing effort to streamline the Internet's HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), a decades-old standard for delivering Web pages to the browser. Google has been working on SPDY (pronounced Speedy) since 2009, but recently the protocol has enjoyed more attention from the IT community. Last month, Twitter began using SPDY to dispatch its pages to any browser that supports the protocol.

The SPDY protocol speeds up basic HTTP in a number of ways, the engineers explained. SPDY allows servers to send all the different elements of a requested Web page at once, eliminating the serial sets of messages that have to be sent back and forth under plain HTTP. It also allows the server to make assumptions about what additional elements a browser would need to complete rendering a Web page, without receiving an explicit request from the browser -- another time saver. Those additional elements are also delivered at the same time. And SPDY allows the server and the browser to compress HTTP, which cuts the amount of data that needs to be communicated between the two.

In order to get SPDY widely used, Google will need to have support for the protocol on both browsers and servers. Providing a module for Apache will help in this regard, given that Apache is the Web's dominant Web server software. Amazon uses SPDY to speed communications between its Silk browser and the company's proxy servers. Nginx, the company behind the increasingly popular open-source Nginx server software, is also developing a plug-in for Nginx, according to Andrew Alexeev, who heads up business development for the company.

On the browser side, Google's Chrome supports SPDY, and Firefox will support it in the upcoming version 11 release. Getting SPDY on Microsoft's Internet Explorer might be a tougher sell, however, given that the company is working on its own SPDY variant called HTTP Speed+Mobility.

The Internet Engineering Task Force is also working to speed HTTP interactions, under an effort called HTTP 2.0. The group's engineers are looking at both SPDY and Microsoft's HTTP Speed+Mobility as a launching point for their own efforts.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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Joab Jackson

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