As a Cloudflare Optimized Partner, we are thrilled to offer the Cloudflare Railgun™ technology to all our customers for free. Railgun is Cloudflare’s latest performance optimization technology that gives you significant improvements in site load times. To activate Railgun, log into your control panel and enable Cloudflare.
Railgun ensures that the connection between your origin server and the Cloudflare network is as fast as possible. Railgun compresses previously uncacheable web objects up to 99.6% by leveraging techniques similar to those used in the compression of high-quality video. This results in an average 200% additional performance increase.
Railgun accelerates the connection between each Cloudflare data center and an origin server so that requests that cannot be served from the Cloudflare cache are nevertheless served very fast.
Approximately 2/3 of requests to sites on Cloudflare are served directly from cache from the data center that is physically closest to the person surfing the web. Because Cloudflare has data centers around the world this means that whether you are in Bangalore, Brisbane, Birmingham or Boston web pages are delivered quickly even when the real, origin web server is thousands of miles away.
Cloudflare’s ability to make a web site appear to be hosted close to web surfers is key in accelerating web surfing. A web site might be hosted in the US, but accessed mainly by web surfers in the UK. With Cloudflare the site will be served from a UK data center eliminating the costly delay caused by the speed of light.
But the other 1/3 of requests made to Cloudflare have to be sent to the origin server for processing. This happens because many web pages are not cacheable. This can be because of a misconfiguration, or, more commonly, because the web page changes frequently or is personalized.
For example, it’s hard to cache the New York Times home page for any length of time because the news changes and being up to date is essential to their business. And for a personalized web site like Facebook each user sees a different page even though the URL may be the same for different users.
Railgun uses a collection of techniques to accelerate and cache these previously uncacheable web pages so that even when the origin server must be consulted web pages are delivered quickly. And that even works for rapidly changing pages like news sites, or for personalized content.
Cloudflare research showed that even though many sites cannot be cached they actually change very slowly. For example, the New York Times home page changes throughout the day as news stories are written, but the boilerplate HTML of the page mostly stays the same and many stories stay on the front page all day.
For personalized sites the boilerplate HTML is the same with only small pieces of content (such as a person’s Twitter timeline or Facebook news feed) changing. This means there’s a huge opportunity to compress web pages for transmission if the unchanging parts of a page can be detected and only the differences transmitted.
When a request is made to a Cloudflare server for a web page that is not in cache Cloudflare makes an HTTP connection to the origin server to request the page. It’s that HTTP connection that Railgun accelerates and secures.