StarBase Blog

 

If you rely on the web for business, performance is everything. If your site is not performing or - heaven forbid - marked as SLOW , then you´re going to be losing out on customer revenue and providing a pretty poor customer experience too.

Driving improvements in web performance is critical, as specialist performance testers we know that only too well, so it has been interesting to follow recent announcements from the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) about the finalisation and approval of the HTTP/2 specification.

HTTP/1.x has been around since 1999, and when you think of the changes made to how we use the internet now compared to then - with CSS, JavaScript, animations, videos and more - it´s clearly due an upgrade. HTTP/2 is that upgrade. It focuses primarily on improving performance by changing the way browsers and servers communicate.

What´s the difference?

HTTP/2 was created to reduce end-user perceived latency as well as network and server resource usage. It does this by introducing the following performance enhancing features:

  • Creates one constant connection between the server and your browser rather than lots of connections whenever new information is requested. This reduces the amount of data being transferred
  • Communicates in binary - your computer´s native language, so less time is wasted in translating data
  • Can send and receive multiple messages at the same time- called "multiplexing". This helps to avoid requests queuing up and stops head of line blocking
  • The ability to prioritise requests and set inter-dependencies so you get the most important information first
  • Efficient compression of header files - a separate specification for HPACK (a compression format for efficiently representing HTTP header fields, to be used in HTTP/2) was finalised and approved alongside the HTTP/2 specification
  • Server push- the server is able to predict your next request and send data before you need it

HTTP/2 introduces these great new features to improve performance, without modifying the core concepts of HTTP and so, you can start using HTTP/2 without having to completely overhaul your website or web applications. Phew!
 

Why Now?

HTTP/2 has been many years in the making. The drive for a faster alternative to HTTP/1.x started with Google in 2009 when it introduced SPDY, pronounced "SPeeDY", which was made `specifically for minimizing latency through features such as multiplexed streams, request prioritization and HTTP header compression´. SDPY did this by introducing a new binary framing layer which became the basis of the changes used to create HTTP/2. Soon after the appearance of SPDY, murmurs of HTTP/2 began and an idea of what it should be and how it could be done started to form.

Now, just months after the specification for HTTP/2 was finalised, Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Opera are already supporting HTTP/2 in their latest versions and a growing number of servers are embracing the change too.
 

Will this fix my performance issues?

The HTTP/2 upgrade is primarily about improving performance and early tests show that some websites could benefit from 20-40% improvements in response times. That´s good. And this upgrade will be available for everyone. Super. But how much difference will this reduction in response times make once everyone has made the change? And you´ve added more complex content to your website? And the public continue to expect faster response times?

What if the upgrade doesn´t even make a difference to your site because you have other bottlenecks causing problems?
At StarBase we know more than most about performance testing, we´ve been doing it for over 20 years.

We´ve developed a rapid to deploy, fixed price, fixed duration performance testing service called Test&Go, and it´s delivered by our UK-based team. The service delivers clear and concise reports that provide conclusive results and analysis you can trust and rely on when assessing the performance of your site and making your go live decisions.

If you´d like to find out more about how Test&Go: Performance Evaluation can support your efforts to improve web performance click here

You might also find these recent blog articles interesting reading:

Top three reasons to performance test

Will your site be banished for performing too slow?

Getting to grips with the UK´s Information Technology Skills Shortage

Posted by:sarah
sarah
Graduate Consultant at StarBase
Sarah Russell is one of the newer faces at StarBase, having joined us as a Graduate Consultant in September 2014. At present her duties include creating scripts used in performance testing to find out how well clients’ systems perform under pressure. She has helped test clients’ websites; and SAP, Microsoft Dynamics AX and Citrix implementations. She also helps to identify requirements and devise testing programmes for clients.

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