CloudFlare opens Toronto data centre

CloudFlare Inc. has opened up a data centre in Toronto today, hoping to make the Web faster and more secure for its Canadian enterprise clients.

The Web performance company describes themselves a “giant reverse proxy,” caching content on business Web sites and blocking off threats ranging from spam to serious SQL injections and DDoS attacks. The Toronto data centre will be their 18th around the world. The company said it considers Canada to be among its top 10 important global markets.

CloudFlare uses an advanced variation of edge-cacheing they call Railgun, says Michelle Zatlyn, a Saskatchewan native and co-founder of the company. “We look at things like file extension names,” she said. “So we say, ‘is this an image? Is this CSS? Is this JavaScript? And if there’s a resource that’s being requested a lot by a visitor we start to cache it out.”
Through a connection between software on the client side and on CloudFlare’s network, she added, Railgun makes it possible to cache things like the HTML code. She uses the example of the Globe and Mail news site, which is dynamic Web site, yet only changes by about five per cent a day. Railgun will only send the portion of the site that’s been changed.
“It’s really similar to how video streaming works, where when you’re going from frame to frame of a video you’re only sending changes, and that’s how video streaming is so fast,” Zatlyn said.
The company has been able to achieve a 99.6 per cent compression ratio this way, making it possible to send data that used to require 200 packets to be sent in a single packet,” she added. “You don’t have the overhead of establishing a TCP connection every time and so we’ve seen huge performance gain.”

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