Layer0 is a serverless platform that combines an application-aware CDN with various speed-oriented web technologies. The acronym stands for “eXperience Delivery Network,” and. Rather than only hosting your static content like a traditional CDN, the infrastructure lets you maximize your cache hit ratios for dynamic content at the edge. Layer0 also provides a few other technologies that further improve your website’s performance and simplify the entire process of developing, deploying, monitoring, experimenting on, and defending large-scale dynamic websites. Let’s now look at how Layer0 compares against a traditional CDN.
What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?
The importance of content delivery networks cannot be overestimated. Without them, websites would be dramatically slow as each user’s browser would inefficiently download content from a server across the globe. This is why today’s internet uses distributed CDNs as the backbone for a better, faster browsing experience. Some CDNs can route traffic, mitigate DDoS attacks, and ensure website uptime.
Points of presence (PoPs) with edge servers are the key components of the CDN architecture which significantly reduce the distance information needs to travel to the user and thus significantly cutting load times. A point of presence is a single geographical location where a group of CDN edge servers resides. The total number of PoPs that make up a CDN’s network and each independent location influences the coverage of the CDN.
Some people may regularly use a CDN but not even know it. Most of today’s Web is served through points of presence, including traffic from major sites like Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix.
The problem with traditional CDNs
CDNs provide high availability and performance by distributing the service spatially relative to end users. However, the problem with traditional CDNs is that they were originally designed with static websites in mind. They were intended to serve assets that rarely change, such as images and text. But the internet has changed, and modern websites—especially eCommerce stores—are now more interactive, dynamic, and database-driven. They now share more affinity with applications than HTML-based websites of yesterday.
Customers visiting eCommerce sites are waiting for the JSON data which makes up the specific size, color, and price of the product they are interested in—but, quite ironically, this data isn’t cached by traditional CDNs, as they are not geared toward dealing with dynamic data.
The easiest way to improve an eCommerce website’s experience is to increase the speed at which product details are delivered.
CDNs and eCommerce
A traditional CDN on its own won’t make an eCommerce website sub-second. Especially not a modern, database-driven, dynamic one that consists of thousands of pages and has dozens of tags, customization, real-time inventory lookups, and more.
Mobile networks are getting faster, yet mobile website speeds haven’t gotten any better. This happens even though almost every major eCommerce site uses a CDN today. Traditional CDNs are only good at caching static files, not JSON data. eCommerce websites with traditional CDNs still make their customers wait for product data that needs to be pulled from a remote database before the browser can render the page on the screen.
Layer0/Edgio and eCommerce
Layer0 was built for large-scale dynamic websites, such as eCommerce and Travel. Layer0 is much more than a modern application-aware CDN. It includes a CDN and other advanced web technologies that get websites down to sub-second speeds.
- Edge traffic router enables traffic splitting at the edge and A/B tests that do not slow down the site. The module also enables iterative migration, canary deploys, and feature flags.
- Branch previews boost developmental velocity by automatically creating full-stack preview URLs for every branch of your code. 1-click rollbacks, custom domains, and live logs are also supported.
- Performance monitor provides you with actionable insight into your cache hit rates, RUM speeds by route, and conversion rate and smoke test alerts.
With Layer0, dynamic data is typically cached at the edge with 95%+ hit rates.
Dump your existing CDN—or not!
The other benefits of Layer0/Edgio
1. Serverless JS
Serverless Node.js – Don’t manage servers; handle huge traffic spikes without effort with a serverless platform.
Synthetic API technology – Sometimes, your eCommerce platform or custom system may not have full API coverage. Why wait months to offer your shoppers an instant experience? With Layer0, you can easily create synthetic APIs off of HTML.
2. Edge experiments
Layer0 gives you full control over your traffic routing, conclusive tests, and sub-second stats.
Route traffic to any live branch – Every branch of code you create is equal on Layer0 and can receive some or all traffic for a given domain. The Layer0 Console makes it easy to adjust routing rules, deploy changes, and roll back if there is a problem.
Route traffic based on any header value or by probabilities – Traffic can be routed by probabilities (e.g., a simple 50/50 split) or based on sophisticated rules based on any header or cookie value (e.g., showing first-time visitors a different experience than repeat visitors).
Layer0 lets route live traffic to any deployed branch at the edge of the network.
Run real A/B tests – Layer0 lets you implement real A/B tests which do not impact your website speeds. Most A/B testing tools slow down your website and skew your results. This problem is reminiscent of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which says the more precisely the position of a particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be predicted from initial conditions, and vice versa. By analogy, when testing your site, you may never be sure if testing failed—or succeeded, but your customers were frustrated by the slower page loads caused by your tests, which you had no control over. With Layer0, you can avoid such dilemmas. Your testing will not compromise page speed as all new experiences are delivered at the edge at identical speeds to the original experience. This allows you to run numerous A/B tests, feature flags, canary deploys, and other site variations without the slightest concern about negatively impacting your site’s speed.
3. Branch preview
Layer0 enables unlimited, automated, full-stack pre-production environments for your app. Every feature branch automatically generates an edge, server, and browser environment.
Automatic preview URLs for every feature branch – Every feature branch automatically generates a URL where product/project managers, QA, and others can provide feedback in real-time, cutting feedback loops to a minimum and avoiding wasted work.
World’s only automatic full-stack pre-production environments – Your browser, edge, and server code are deployed to an environment identical to your production stack. You will never have to call your CDN support team to debug your site when it’s down again.
CI and CD on steroids – Layer0 Branch Preview include a builder triggered when you push to a feature branch. The builder deploys to a full stack environment, updates GitHub status checks, and posts a preview URL in your pull request.
The key benefits of Branch Preview:
Developers can share live code on the latest branch for testing before it is merged in
Business owners can see changes in real-time
Code reviews and feedback cycles are faster
QA and testing processes are simplified
Designed with static websites in mind, traditional CDNs don’t cut the mustard for modern, dynamic, and image-rich eCommerce websites. Layer0 is a full package deal, a complete infrastructure for running sub-second dynamic websites. It comes with a CDN but also offers much more. It is your all-in-one solution to develop, deploy, preview, run, monitor, experiment, and defend your headless frontend. And it will make sure you squeeze every millisecond out of every optimization effort. We guarantee sub-500ms median page loads for large, dynamic websites running on Layer0/Edgio.