Three Use Cases Where You Should Use Amazon CloudFront

Amazon CloudFront is likely not the most common and known service in the AWS family. Nevertheless, it proves to be a very interesting alternative to S3 or other products alike when you aim not to the storage in itself, rather to delivering content for your appliance. Indeed, CloudFront is a content delivery web service with “low latency, high data transfer speeds, and no commitments”. Despite that, I see that CloudFront is often poorly used or unused at all. So, to make clear what it is thought for and how to take advantage of it, let’s see 3 typical use cases where you should use Amazon CloudFront.

Three use cases where you should use Amazon CloudFront

Replace S3 with CloudFront when your userbase is geographically distributed

S3 is typically used to store and deliver data for your appliance. Unfortunately, this is a poor choice when the userbase is geographically distributed and you can’t focus your storage on a particular area of the world to achieve the lowest possible latency. On the other hand, CloudFront has a global network of so-called “edge locations”, which are data centers spread around the world, all replicating the content you would like to deliver to your user. Every time a resource is asked for by end users, the request is automatically routed to the nearest edge location, in order to achieve high-performance delivery of the content. In addition to that, you can even set different domain aliases for your CloudFront distribution, that is, having cdn1.mydomain.com, cdn2.mydomain.com, and so on, all pointing to the same CloudFront distribution. This allows parallel downloads and improves, even more, the performance of your appliance.

Harness the Origin Servers feature to cache dynamically generated content

When Cloud Front was launched, it was a feeder of content stored on S3 only. You put your objects on Amazon S3, CloudFront takes and caches them on the edge locations, then delivers them from there. This was quite a strong limitation for certain applications, but later on, Amazon introduced a feature called “Origin Servers” that quite changed the game.

Adding a Custom Origin Server allows CloudFront to feed content from anywhere, even from your on-premises web server, or a machine from another cloud provider. The great thing behind that is that you can deliver even automatically generated content via CloudFront, and use CloudFront to replace a custom caching solution. CloudFront allows you to tune quite finely its behavior, especially thanks to HTTP headers like Cache-Control, who control how long CloudFront should cache a given resource. Another nice feature is that CloudFront supports Etag headers.

Do you know what Etag is? They are a sort of a hash, or a digest, of the given resource. Modern browser uses them to save bandwidth. When a browser requests something that is available in browser’s cache, it will send a special If-Match header with the ETag of the resource from the cache. CloudFront will compare this ETag with ETag from his cache and will respond with HTTP 304 Not Modified without sending the resource again. Just add Etag’s to your content on CloudFront and this behavior will be automatically triggered.

CloudFront caching on steroids: Whole-Site Delivery

If we can deliver even dynamically generated content, why not taking full advantage of it and move to a Whole-Site Delivery approach? In the typical usage pattern, CloudFront act as a CDN for static content only, typically hosted either on S3 or on your Custom Origin server. Nevertheless, we have just seen how you can use it to cache dynamic content from your origin server. So, what blocks from using CloudFront as a CDN for your whole website? The key idea here is to use CloudFront as a proxy for both S3 (where your static assets are stored) and your EC2 instance, or your on-premises Custom Origin server (where dynamic content is generated).

If this seems a bite off more than you can chew, fear not: a lot of websites already use an approach like this, with a significant improvement of their performance. The idea that user-personalized pages can’t be delivered via CDNs is simply a myth. Truth is that network and path optimizations allow CloudFront to speed up dynamic content without losing a bit in customization. Setting up this architecture isn’t difficult at all, you will probably need some time to perfectly tune it, but your profits in term of performance, better scalability, improved availability, and reduced costs will go way beyond that.

Avatar

Written by

Andrea Colangelo

Software Engineer with a solid focus on QA and an extensive experience in ICT. Above all, Andrea has a very strong interest in Free and Open Source Software, and he is a Debian and Ubuntu Developer since years. Non-tech interests include: Rugby, Jazz music and Cooking.


Related Posts

Amanda Cross
Amanda Cross
— January 7, 2021

New Content: AWS Terraform, Java Programming Lab Challenges, Azure DP-900 & DP-300 Certification Exam Prep, Plus Plenty More Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Big Data Courses

This month our Content Team continues building the catalog of courses for everyone learning about AWS, GCP, and Microsoft Azure. In addition, this month’s updates include several Java programming lab challenges and a couple of courses on big data. In total, we released five new learning...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Avatar
Stuart Scott
— December 17, 2020

Where Should You Be Focusing Your AWS Security Efforts?

Another day, another re:Invent session! This time I listened to Stephen Schmidt’s session, “AWS Security: Where we've been, where we're going.” Amongst covering the highlights of AWS security during 2020, a number of newly added AWS features/services were discussed, including: AWS Audit...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS re:Invent
  • cloud security
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— December 4, 2020

AWS re:Invent: 2020 Keynote Top Highlights and More

We’ve gotten through the first five days of the special all-virtual 2020 edition of AWS re:Invent. It’s always a really exciting time for practitioners in the field to see what features and services AWS has cooked up for the year ahead.  This year’s conference is a marathon and not a...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Glue Elastic Views
  • AWS re:Invent
Bryony Harrower
Bryony Harrower
— November 6, 2020

WARNING: Great Cloud Content Ahead

At Cloud Academy, content is at the heart of what we do. We work with the world’s leading cloud and operations teams to develop video courses and learning paths that accelerate teams and drive digital transformation. First and foremost, we listen to our customers’ needs and we stay ahea...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • content roadmap
  • GCP
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— October 25, 2020

Excelling in AWS, Azure, and Beyond – How Danut Prisacaru Prepares for the Future

Meet Danut Prisacaru. Danut has been a Software Architect for the past 10 years and has been involved in Software Engineering for 30 years. He’s passionate about software and learning, and jokes that coding is basically the only thing he can do well (!). We think his enthusiasm shines t...

Read more
  • AWS
  • careers
  • champions
  • upskilling
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— October 14, 2020

New Content: AWS Data Analytics – Specialty Certification, Azure AI-900 Certification, Plus New Learning Paths, Courses, Labs, and More

This month our Content Team released two big certification Learning Paths: the AWS Certified Data Analytics - Speciality, and the Azure AI Fundamentals AI-900. In total, we released four new Learning Paths, 16 courses, 24 assessments, and 11 labs.  New content on Cloud Academy At any ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— September 15, 2020

New Content: Azure DP-100 Certification, Alibaba Cloud Certified Associate Prep, 13 Security Labs, and Much More

This past month our Content Team served up a heaping spoonful of new and updated content. Not only did our experts release the brand new Azure DP-100 Certification Learning Path, but they also created 18 new hands-on labs — and so much more! New content on Cloud Academy At any time, y...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— August 28, 2020

AWS Certification Practice Exam: What to Expect from Test Questions

If you’re building applications on the AWS cloud or looking to get started in cloud computing, certification is a way to build deep knowledge in key services unique to the AWS platform. AWS currently offers 12 certifications that cover major cloud roles including Solutions Architect, De...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Certifications
Patrick Navarro
Patrick Navarro
— August 25, 2020

Overcoming Unprecedented Business Challenges with AWS

From auto-scaling applications with high availability to video conferencing that’s used by everyone, every day —  cloud technology has never been more popular or in-demand. But what does this mean for experienced cloud professionals and the challenges they face as they carve out a new p...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Cloud Adoption
  • digital transformation
Avatar
Andrew Larkin
— August 18, 2020

Constant Content: Cloud Academy’s Q3 2020 Roadmap

Hello —  Andy Larkin here, VP of Content at Cloud Academy. I am pleased to release our roadmap for the next three months of 2020 — August through October. Let me walk you through the content we have planned for you and how this content can help you gain skills, get certified, and...

Read more
  • alibaba
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • content roadmap
  • Content updates
  • DevOps
  • GCP
  • Google Cloud
  • New content
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— August 5, 2020

New Content: Alibaba, Azure AZ-303 and AZ-304, Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) Foundation, Python 3 Programming, 16 Hands-on Labs, and Much More

This month our Content Team did an amazing job at publishing and updating a ton of new content. Not only did our experts release the brand new AZ-303 and AZ-304 Certification Learning Paths, but they also created 16 new hands-on labs — and so much more! New content on Cloud Academy At...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— July 16, 2020

Blog Digest: Which Certifications Should I Get?, The 12 Microsoft Azure Certifications, 6 Ways to Prevent a Data Breach, and More

This month, we were excited to announce that Cloud Academy was recognized in the G2 Summer 2020 reports! These reports highlight the top-rated solutions in the industry, as chosen by the source that matters most: customers. We're grateful to have been nominated as a High Performer in se...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • blog digest
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Academy
  • OWASP
  • OWASP Top 10
  • Security
  • VPCs