SiteFarm gets even Fastly-er

Image of a view of Earth overlaid with a web of lines forming a visual network of connections.
Get connected. Fastly.

SiteFarm is using a new service called Fastly to improve speed, security, and cost-savings. The change will also affect how you launch your sites, so if you're a site manager it's imperative you catch up to this update.

What is Fastly and why are we using it?

Fastly is a cloud service Content Distribution Network (CDN). If you’re not familiar with the term, CDN works with servers placed all over the world to cache and transfer your content in a way that can greatly improve load performance and increase site security. This is also a benefit to the campus as site traffic is often a metric for fees associated with hosting and the fewer hits against the hosting server, the less money is charged to the campus. With all of our client sites using Fastly, we'll also enjoy increased protection against hackers and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. 

How this affects existing sites

We have a small handful of sites already on Fastly—the official SiteFarm sites, testing environments, and a group of volunteer client sites who have been helping us test this service for several months now. The SiteFarm team in partnership with the Campus Data Center staff will be handling the process of moving all existing sites over to Fastly for you; the process will be seamless and will not affect your sites except to improve performance.

We've determined that a couple of dozen large sites are responsible for the heaviest amount of traffic and these will be moved first, followed by the rest of the sites in incremental groupings until the process is complete. Again, you won't have to do a thing and the only thing you might notice is your site's content loading quicker.

How this affects new sites ready to launch

This is where the process changes and our launch checklist will be update to reflect the new step. Everything will remain the same EXCEPT STEP 7. Now, when you contact the campus host clerk to request the CNAME assignment instead of asking for this:

ourdept.ucdavis.edu CNAME ourdept.ucdsitefarm.acsitefactory.com

You will instead ask for this:

ourdept.ucdavis.edu CNAME sf.ucdavis.edu

When will this change go into effect?

This new process begins Monday, October 19, 2020.

The gory details for those of you interested in such minutiae

Fastly is going to cache public content across hundreds of servers across the planet. This is called load balancing and it is part of the process of not only making sure your site is always available through redundancies (if one fails, all the others are available) but also increasing performance if a browser's call to the first server is busy; it can bounce to the next server and the next until it hits one that can serve up your site, bypassing any wait time even if it's only by a matter of milliseconds. 

Next, we're flattening the behind-the-scenes address structure. We're going to move from something that looks like this:

Current DNS Aliasing Assignments
From Record Type To
yoursitename.ucdavis.edu. 14400 IN CNAME yoursitename.ucdsitefarm.acsitefactory.com.
yoursitename.ucdsitefarm.acsitefactory.com. 60 IN CNAME ucdsitefarm01live.{...}.com.
ucdsitefarm01live.{...}.com. 60 IN CNAME enterprise-{...}.amazonaws.com.
enterprise-{...}.amazonaws.com. 60 IN A XX.XXX.XXX.XXX
enterprise-{...}.amazonaws.com. 60 IN A XX.XXX.XX.XXX

Whew! That's a lotta addresses! Let's see how Fastly will flatten this list when we move to this:

Fastly DNS Aliasing Assignments
From Record Type To
yoursitename.ucdavis.edu. CNAME sf.ucdavis.edu.
sf.ucdavis.edu. 4 IN A XXX.XXX.XX.XXX
XXX.XXX.XX.XXX
XXX.XXX.XX.XXX
XXX.XXX.XX.XXX

You can see how moving to Fastly will simplify and speed things up. Because we're all be sharing the four IP addresses (those four lines of Xs at the end) pointing your site at sf.ucdavis.edu will be the same as pointing it at those four IP addresses. It also means that if we change services in the future, we'll only need to change where the official service address is assigned and all of yours should update as well. Planning for future efficiencies is fun!

Category

Tags