Posts tagged CDN

My most recent project (following on from Jerome, slotting in around the rest of the Summer’s “oh God, students are coming back, fix everything” mayhem has been to look at Gateway, more specifically to take Gateway and give it some extra awesome based around exploratory work we did with MPath. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you can expect when it’s turned on.

Very pretty. Very fast.

We’ve moved from a CWD 2.3 based design to our brand new CWD 3.0. This gives us a huge number of improvements in just about every area; layout, typography, readability, accessibility, compatibility, mobile readiness, new JavaScript frameworks, massively improved speed optimisations and more. We’ve compressed files and shaved off unnecessary bytes from almost the entire framework, making it load astonishingly quickly even over mobiles.

CWD 3.0 is also served over a blazingly fast content delivery network. Specifically we’re using Rackspace Cloud Files, who pipe their content to end users over the Akamai network. Put simply, this means that content such as the styling and images is delivered to your browser from a point much closer in internet space, regardless of where you are. If you want to access the Gateway from Bhutan then instead of serving all the content from a box in Lincoln some of it will come from whichever one of Akamai’s 84,000 servers happens to be closest. The result is a blisteringly fast experience, and since a lot of the Akamai servers are hooked straight into providers’ networks then it’ll still be quick even on mobile devices.

As mobile as your mobile.

We’ve made sure that Gateway optimises itself on the fly for most modern mobiles, and since it uses the CWD for its underlying design it’ll instantly take advantage of future improvements as we deploy them. We’ve sat down with our desks full of phones and tablets and tested things to make sure they’re easily read and are simple enough to use with just one finger.


Gateway now runs on a brand new system, meaning we can give it some extra smarts. If you visit Gateway and we’ve noticed there’s a problem with Blackboard then you’ll be told about it, meaning less clicking a link and waiting whilst it doesn’t load. It can tell you the local weather forecast, show you which trains are running late and even give you notices specific to your location, all in one place.

It’s all about you.

Sign in to the Gateway or use any of the services using Single Sign-In and it’ll gather all kinds of information you might find useful and display it for you. Your next lecture, assessment deadlines, how many library books you’ve got out and more is right at your fingertips.

Rock solid.

Gateway has moved from one very resilient platform to another even more resilient platform. Located off-campus on a world-class hosting platform Gateway can survive snow, flood and even builders cutting through power lines to provide you with updates even if everything else is going wrong.

Recently as we’ve been looking at some stats (for the first time ever) it turns out that people are actually walloping the bejesus out of a few of our systems. Things like the CWD are standing up to a huge flood of requests and although the service is working mostly as designed, it’s still not quite as perfect as we want it to be. Some requests are running a bit slow, and recently our primary server failed to come back up following a power outage (much to our annoyance).

This clearly needs to be fixed, so in preparation for CWD 2.4 – which is awesome and optimised for just about everything anyway – we’ve been looking at moving to a serious cloud based CDN. This means that aside from uptime in excess of 99.99% (just under 4 minutes and 23 seconds of downtime a month) we also gain local delivery from servers around the world, so websites load even faster no matter where you are.

It’s the little things that count.