Instart Logic Use of Optimization to Disrupt the CDN Market

The content delivery network (CDN) market largely appears to be a mature market that is dominated by Akamai due to the market’s apparent affinity for a high degree of physical network infrastructure and caching to minimize the impact of last mile issues. It’s therefore surprising to see the degree of attention focused on Instart Logic by some of Silicon Valley’s leading entrepreneurs and VCs. Instart Logic is a west coast application delivery startup with funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Sutter Hill Ventures, Tenaya Capital, and several notable Silicon Valley angel investors. This is the A-team when it comes to investors and a group whose attention is not easy to attract.

Instart Logic leverages a number of techniques to speed the delivery of content across the web. Predictably, Instart Logic relies on a cloud-based orchestrator to coordinate and control the movement of content across its global network of points of presence (PoPs). Although Instart Logic has created a proprietary Interproxy Transport Protocol (IPTP), which includes parallel processing capabilities; this technology may get you in a VC’s door but is not going to seal the deal.

However, Instart Logic also brings two additional techniques that it has named SmartVision and SmartSequence that are primarily responsible for driving its value proposition. SmartVision performs sophisticated image processing to compress and sequence image workloads to reduce image recognition time. This image processing involves compression, analytics, and decisioning to determine how best to stage and refresh images without initial image degradation.

However, SmartSequence is where optimization is used to significant advantage. SmartSequence analyzes JavaScript code being shipped to the browser, sequences code delivery, and ignores the delivery of functions and code that are not used. SmartSequence works with JavaScript and HTML today, and recent ESG data on language use shows that JavaScript is now the primary language used in client- and server-side application development. SmartSequence relies on a client-side JavaSript library that Instart Logic refers to as a Nanovisor.  This Nanovisor analyzes JavaScript code, frameworks, and libraries being run in the browser and searches for code that is not used. Developers do not generally minimize the footprint of an application because in this age of continuous improvement, development, and integration, they never know what library functions will be needed tomorrow. From a functional standpoint, this makes sense although there is a performance penalty in packaging unused code into the application. The Nanovisor is designed to determine what functions can be deferred and this feedback is provided to the cloud-based orchestrator, which then sends just what code is needed on subsequent downloads. Since the Nanovisor is always evaluating every download, it has the ability to also recognize when the application has changed from a subsequent version and instruct the orchestrator to synchronize its application plan and resend the application.

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While this optimization technique is not specifically mathematical optimization, it is an example of a closed loop optimization that solves the harder optimization issues of how much and how often. As I pointed out in my last blog, the challenge in optimization is not the act of optimizing: It’s knowing how best to optimize and how often to optimize. Instart Logic benefits from being tasked with a relatively simply optimization task, which is to determine the minimum code base needed to support current application functionality. The clever aspect of SmartSequence is the feedback loop and machine learning that governs when to optimize. Although there is added overhead each time the Nanovisor directs the Orchestrator to change the application streaming plan, this is completely contingent upon the volatility of an application’s code base.

An ESG Lab Review comparing Instart Logic’s overall approach to application delivery with leading competitors has shown a 75% reduction in delivery times. While it is difficult to decompose exactly what features of Instart Logic’s approach are driving this performance, its overall innovative approach with software-defined application delivery and technologies such as SmartSequence and SmartVision, provide unique performance optimizations.

Decision Analytics Report