Blog post

Google’s mod_pagespeed and Cotendo

By Lydia Leong | November 08, 2010 | 3 Comments


Those of you who are Gartner clients know that in the last year, my colleague Joe Skorupa and I have become excited about the emergence of software-based application acceleration via page optimization approaches, as exemplified by vendors like Aptimize and Strangeloop Networks. (Clients: See Cool Vendors in Enterprise Networking, 2010.) This approach to acceleration enhances the performance of Web-based content and applications, by automatically optimizing the page output of webservers according to the best practices described in books like High Performance Web Sites by Steve Souders. Techniques of this sort include automatically combining JavaScript files (which reduces overall download time), optimizing the order of the scripts, and rewriting HTML so that the browser can display the page more quickly.

Page optimization techniques can often provide significant acceleration boosts (2x or more) even when other acceleration techniques are in use, such as a hardware ADC with acceleration module (offered as add-ons by F5 and Citrix NetScaler, for instance), or a CDN (including CDN-based dynamic acceleration). Since early this year, we’ve been warning our CDN clients that this is a critical technology development to watch and to consider adopting in their networks. It’s a highly sensible thing to deploy on a CDN, for customers doing whole site delivery; the CDN offloads the computational expense of doing the optimization (which can be significant), and then caches the result (and potentially distributing the optimized pages to other nodes on the CDN). That gets you excellent, seamless acceleration for essentially no effort on the part of the customer.

Google’s Page Speed project provides free and open-source tools designed to help site owners implement these best practices. Google has recently released an open-source module, called mod_pagespeed, for the popular Apache webserver. This essentially creates an open-source competitor to commercial vendors like Aptimize and Strangeloop. Add the module into your Apache installation, and it will automatically try to optimize your pages for you.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting for CDN watchers: Cotendo has partnered wih Google. Cotendo is deploying the Google code (modified, obviously, to run on Cotendo’s proxy caches, which are not Apache-based), in order to be able to offer the page optimization service to its customers.

I know some of you will automatically be asking now, “What does this mean for Akamai?” The answer to that is, “Losing speed trials when it’s Akamai DSA vs. Cotendo DSA + Page Speed Automatic, until they can launch a competing service.” Akamai’s acceleration service hasn’t changed much since the Netli acquisition in 2007, and the evolution in technology here has to be addressed. Page optimization plus TCP optimization is generally much faster than TCP optimization alone. That doesn’t just have pricing implications; it has implications for the competitive dynamics of the space, too.

I fully expect that page optimization will become part of the standard dynamic acceleration service offerings of multiple CDNs next year. This is the new wave of innovation. Despite the well-documented nature of these best practices, organizations still frequently ignore them when coding — and even commercial packages like Sharepoint ignore them (Sharepoint gets a major performance boost when page optimization techniques are applied, and there are solutions like Certeon that are specific to it). So there’s a very broad swathe of customers that can benefit easily from these techniques, especially since they provide nice speed boosts even in environments where the network latency is pretty decent, like delivery within the United States.

Comments are closed


  • Joshua Bixby says:

    Thank you for the mention, Lydia. I want to take a moment to clarify that we here at Strangeloop do not consider Google’s mod_pagespeed to be a competitor. Here’s why:

    Mod_pagespeed is an excellent module for solving one piece of the performance puzzle within a specific server environment. In fact, the next release of the Strangeloop Site Optimizer will integrate mod_pagespeed features within our larger set of Site Optimizer features. But it should be noted that site optimization is much further-reaching than mod_pagespeed is designed to address.

    Mod_pagespeed provides some basic, fundamental individual page optimization features, but it was not designed to address things like broken pages, how pages relate to each other, how visitors move through a site, how different browsers and devices render pages, and how core networking issues can affect page delivery. Products like Site Optimizer are designed to take advantage of all of these factors to maximize site acceleration.

    In addition, while Google’s module is designed for use in Apache server environments, the entire Site Optimizer product family — including our cloud-based service — can be implemented in any environment.

    I definitely do not want this comment to be taken as criticism of mod_pagespeed. Maximizing web performance is an ongoing and open-ended challenge, which is why it’s great to see a performance powerhouse like Google making its automation tools open source. By giving code to our community, it lets us all refine our tools to deliver the best possible products.

    We issued a press release last week, expressing our excitement at this new development. If your readers are interested, they can read it here:

  • Ed Robinson says:

    Great post. Google is sending a clear message – “we need to speed up the web” and the solution depends as much on the application structure and delivery as the underlying fiber and broadband infrastructure. Google wants to grow the web performance optimization industry for a simple reason: accelerating websites accelerates Google’s revenue through their core business of advertising.

    The mod_pagespeed complements more established enterprise solutions – and the good news for the consumer is there are now offerings to address all market segments – from open source and shareware tools to complete solutions for enterprises.

    Ed Robinson
    CEO, Aptimize

  • I join my esteemed colleagues in saying that mod_pagespeed is good news for everyone – website owners and acceleration services providers.

    On the one hand Google does once again more than anyone to make the web fast. On the other hand mod_pagespeed provides a solution mostly for small websites that do not want to put many resources into manual acceleration and not for enterprises that already did (and bought) all they could to optimize their website and want more.

    Google raises the awareness that a faster website is a more profitable website – and with all the companies providing serious acceleration solutions around all segments can now enjoy a faster web.

    Leonid Fainberg
    CTO and Co-Founder