July 29, 2013

Caching 2.0 for Cash

In advance of the recent DevCon5 event, and precluding any video interviews, I had some interesting conversations with Matt Moore of CrowdMob (who was in town for the event) as well as Blair Reese of IBM (News Alert), on the subject of connecting to the customer in the correct context and the need for speed in discovering context. There are, in effect, internal optimizations that can be enacted and external solutions. 

On the Internal side, Blair and I discussed the need to have the context understood well enough to ensure the customer is properly addressed. Interestingly enough, IBM’s BigBlue computer and the winner of Jeopardy, is now being used for call center solutions, a fact I found interesting because I have often found that large companies with several call centers know little of each other’s product portfolio. Giving BigBlue the entire picture of the product line makes BigBlue the front-end cache of useful information.

External ad networks are what CrowdMob attacks, focusing on making sure that their customers know which ads queries they want to bid on. The problem they face is that the response time-to-bid on these ads is in the milliseconds, which makes an SQL query impossible. Thus, caching the selection process on the ads on which to bid becomes the optimum means for getting the best bang for the buck.

Caching can add value in advertising as well, a supposition that is supported by the sessions from Cory Hudson of AOL (News Alert) and Jon Percival of PointRoll on Internet Advertising. The optimizing of ads on the Web is in a sad state, the situation being that Flash swf files are seen as cumbersome and abandoned in favor of other HTML5 tools. However, the HTML5 tools are scattered and inconsistent, as well as often being platform-specific.

Of course, you can learn a lot about the various tools by looking at their DevCon5 presentations (which will be the focus next week). What struck me was how much rendering had to be done in order to replace Flash. In addition, the slide deck from Kent Alstad, Radware’s (News Alert) vice president of Acceleration, is a good complimentary read, making the point that the optimization of websites is clearly not well understood. Lots of compression and reduction of server requests can help.

One recommendation that came out of these discussions was the use of canvas for animations to ensure the minimization or outright eradication of delay in CSS3. And yet another recommendation was regarding JavaScript, for which the Defer command should be used to reduce unneeded processing.

All of this looks at the software, though on the hardware side there is also cause for hope. One place where a common solution may arrive for the hardware is with WebGL. When hardware is involved, however, drivers may be required and the last thing you want to do is sink a potential sale because of a configuration problem. That said, though, Microsoft (News Alert) will be supporting WebGL in their software in the near future. Finally, on the video and voice side, WebRTC represents another solution that will optimally improve with hardware. 

Graphically, challenges remain, and I can imagine Adobe (NewsAlert) regaining their graphical prestige by incorporating best-in-class open source solutions.  

Edited by Stefania Viscusi


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