f5friday

Application experience aficionados take note: you have choices now. No longer are you constrained to just HTTP/1 with a side option of WebSockets or SPDY. HTTP/2 is also an option, one that like its SPDY predecessor brings with it several enticing benefits but is not without obstacles.

In fact, it is those obstacles that may hold back adoption according to IDG research, "Making the Journey to HTTP/2".  In the research, respondents indicated several potential barriers to adoption including backward compatibility with HTTP/1 and the "low availability" of HTTP/2 services.

http2-adoption-obstacles-idg-2014

In what's sure to noticed as a circular dependency, the "low availability" is likely due to the "lack of backward compatibility" barrier. Conversely, the lack of backward compatibility with HTTP/1 is likely to prevent the deployment of HTTP/2 services and cause low availability of HTTP/2 services. Which in turn, well, you get the picture.

This is not a phantom barrier. The web was built on HTTP/1 and incompatibility is harder to justify today than it was when we routinely browsed the web and were shut out of cool apps because we were using the "wrong" browser. The level of integration between apps and reliance on many other APIs for functionality pose a difficult problem for would-be adopters of HTTP/2 looking for the improved performance and efficacy of resource utilization it brings.

But it doesn't have to.

You can have your cake and eat it too, as the saying goes.

HTTP Gateways

What you want is some thing that sits in between all those users and your apps and speaks their language (protocol) whether it's version 1 or version 2. You want an intermediary that's smart enough to translate SPDY or HTTP/2 to HTTP/1 so you don't have to change your applications to gain the performance and security benefits without investing hundreds of hours in upgrading web infrastructure. What you want is an HTTP Gateway.

At this point in the post, you will be unsurprised to learn that F5 provides just such a thing. Try to act surprised, though, it'll make my day.

One of the benefits of growing up from a load balancing to an application delivery platform is that you have to be fluent in the languages (protocols) of applications. One of those languages is HTTP, and so it's no surprise that at the heart of F5 services is the ability to support all the various flavors of HTTP available today: HTTP/1, SPDY, HTTP/2 and HTTP/S (whether over TLS or SSL). http2-adoption-drivers-idg-2014

But more than just speaking the right language is the ability to proxy for the application with the user. Which means that F5 services (like SDAS) sit in between users and apps and can translate across flavors of HTTP. Is your mobile app speaking HTTP/2 or SPDY but your app infrastructure only knows HTTP/1? No problem. F5 can make that connection happen. That's because we're a full proxy, with absolute control over a dual-communication stack that lets us do one thing on the client side while doing another on the server side. We can secure the outside and speak plain-text on the inside. We can transition security protocols, web protocols, and network protocols (think IPv4 - IPv6).

That means you can get those performance and resource-utilization benefits without ripping and replacing your entire web application infrastructure. You don't have to reject users because they're not using the right browser protocol and you don't have to worry about losing visibility because of an SSL/TLS requirement.

You can learn more about F5's HTTP/2 and SDPY Gateway capabilities by checking out these blogs: