Amazon CloudFront: A brief introduction to the problem of optimizing web content delivery…and the AWS’s solution.
We’re going to learn about Amazon CloudFront and how to make it work for you. First, since CloudFront is a kind of content delivery network (CDN), it’s probably worthwhile spending a bit of time discussing exactly how CDNs work, and what they do.
Brief introduction to CDNs
The idea of a content delivery network (sometimes called a content distribution network) is nothing new. It’s really nothing more than a set of servers distributed across the Internet to serve highly available, high performance content to end-users.
The primary goal of a CDN is delivering content from providers (like media companies) to their audiences as quickly and reliably as possible. The model works by delivering content from the CDN server closest to the users who will consume it, thereby eliminating as many network hops as possible.
Among other advantages, a CDN can:
- Offload traffic served directly from the content provider’s origin infrastructure.
- Help manage denial-of-service attacks by absorbing some of the traffic.
- Offer higher availability, lower network latency, and lower packet loss.
- Sometimes reduce your hosting costs.
- Handle increased numbers of concurrent users.
If there are advantages, there will be some negatives too:
- Lock-in dependency on a single CDN provider for support availability.
- Lock-in dependency on a single CDN provider for infrastructure availability.
- Not all CDN providers will have data centers in exactly the geographic locations you need them for each of your projects.
The CDN market has many active providers, including CloudFare, Akamai Technologies, and Limelight Networks.
So we’ve described CDNs and some of the major players. But there’s someone really obvious we’ve left out.
As the cloud continues to dominate application and content delivery, Amazon Web Services continues to dominate the cloud. There can’t be many providers who haven’t at least considered moving their operations to the AWS cloud. At the same time, AWS works hard to understand its customers’ requirements and wants to be able to provide an environment that addresses all their needs. Since distributed content delivery is a common need, it only makes sense that AWS would offer CloudFront: a fully integrated solution.
To achieve the low latency connections providers need, CloudFront uses a global network of edge locations:
How Amazon CloudFront works
Getting started with Amazon CloudFront is quick and simple. Let’s see what has to be done to configure CloudFront.
- The first step is to decide on an origin server. Like all CDN providers, CloudFront requires you to define the server hosting the content you want CloudFront to deliver across the distributed network. The origin server can be an S3 bucket or an HTTP server (either based in Amazon’s EC2 or locally in your own datacenter).
- Next, you will upload your content to the origin server. Anything that can be served over HTTP or a supported version of Adobe RTMP can be used. Typically, the content consists of web pages, images, and media files (video and audio).
- The next step is the most important one. You will need to create a distribution. There are two kinds of distribution that you can create: web distributions for HTTP/HTTPS, and RTMP Distributions for RTMP and its variants. Distributions are the way you tell CloudFront what content to use and what to do with it.
- If you want your content to be delivered over either HTTP or HTTPS, select a Web distribution, but if your deployment involves real-time data using RTMP protocols, then you should choose an RTMP distribution.
- You can create URL-matching rules for your distributions. For example, you could decide that any request that includes the string “/books/*” should fetch data from your HTTP server, but a request containing “/author/*” should go to S3.
- Finally, use the domain name endpoint that CloudFront gives you as URLs through which your users can access your content.
Note: You can fine-tune your distribution by setting values like the expiration time for files to remain in cache before they are refreshed, and which groups of CloudFront edge locations you’d like to use (i.e., US only, US and Europe, or all locations).
Once the setup is ready, your Amazon CloudFront distribution is ready to serve requests. Your DNS service will route a request from your end user to the CloudFront endpoint URL, and CloudFront will send it to the edge location that can best serve the user’s request. CloudFront first checks its cache for the requested files, if it’s there it’s all good. But if it’s not found in the cache, it checks your distribution configuration and forwards the request to the origin server.
This diagram can help to visualize the process:
Important Amazon CloudFront features
Besides the more obvious features we’ve already seen, with Amazon CloudFront, you can also:
- Enable AWS WAF (Web Application Firewall) which can help secure your content.
- Engage in many e-commerce activities, since CloudFront is PCI DSS Compliant.
- Configure the default TTL & Max TTL values (to control how long CloudFront will hold items in cache).
- Invalidate Multiple Objects.
- Add signed cookies for private content.
- Add support for advanced SSL features: Perfect Forward Secrecy, OCSP Stapling, and Session Tickets.
- Use CloudFront as part of the AWS Free Usage Tier.
I hope this blog was able to satisfy at least your initial curiosity about Amazon CloudFront. This is an exciting and useful area and I strongly encourage you to investigate the free 7-day trial subscription from Cloud Academy. They offer multiple learning products on this very topic:
- Video Course: Working with Amazon CloudFront features
- Multiple Quizzes: Various Difficulty Levels of AWS CloudFront Quiz
- Hands-on Labs: Serve Your Files Using The CloudFront CDN
I’ve tried to inspire your desire for greater learning. I haven’t attempted a deep dive because that must requires greater time and space than this blog offers. What I’d like you to take away from reading this post is a familiarization with the way that AWS handles the problem of fast and efficient content delivery. Maybe you are motivated to dig deeper with Cloud Academy’s labs, video courses or quizzes. Cloud Academy labs let learners work in a real AWS environment without setting up an AWS account. So take the trial and see what you think.
Feedback is critical to us, so let me know what you think and where we can do better.
New Content: Alibaba, Azure Cert Prep: AI-100, AZ-104, AZ-204 & AZ-400, Amazon Athena Playground, Google Cloud Developer Challenge, and much more
This month, our Content Team released 8 new learning paths, 4 courses, 7 labs in real cloud environments, and 4 new knowledge check assessments. Not only that, but we introduced our very first course on Alibaba Cloud, and our expert instructors are working 'round the clock to create 6 n...
Top 5 Reasons to Get AWS Certified Right Now
Cloud computing trends are on the rise and have been for some time already. Fortunately, it’s never too late to start learning cloud computing. Skills like AWS and others associated with cloud computing are in high demand because cloud technologies have become crucial for many businesse...
Introducing Our Newest Lab Environments: Lab Playgrounds
Want to train in a real cloud environment, but feel slowed down by spinning up your own deployments? When you consider security or pricing costs, it can be costly and challenging to get up to speed quickly for self-training. To solve this problem, Cloud Academy created a new suite of la...
Blog Digest: AWS Breaking News, Azure DevOps, AWS Study Guide, 8 Ways to Prevent a Ransomware Attack, and More
New articles by topicAWS Azure Data Science Google Cloud Cloud Adoption Platform Updates & New Content Security Women in TechAWSBreaking News: All AWS Certification Exams Now Available Online As an Advanced AWS Technology Partner, C...
AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate: A Study Guide
Want to take a really impactful step in your technical career? Explore the AWS Solutions Architect Associate certificate. Its new version (SAA-C02) was released on March 23, 2020, though you can still take SAA-C01 through July 1, 2020. This post will focus on version SAA-C02.The AWS...
New on Cloud Academy: AWS Solutions Architect Exam Prep, Azure Courses, GCP Engineer Exam Prep, Programming, and More
Free content on Cloud Academy More and more customers are relying on our technology and content to keep upskilling their people in these months, and we are doing our best to keep supporting them. While the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to make a small contribution to he...
Breaking News: All AWS Certification Exams Now Available Online
Remote proctoring for all AWS certifications Cloud Academy is an Advanced AWS Technology Partner, and we are happy to announce all AWS certification exams are available online! What does this mean for you? You can stay focused on your certification goal. Or you can start a certifica...
How To Build a Career with AWS Certifications
From Iaas and PaaS solutions to digital marketing, cloud computing reshapes the world of technology. As the influence of this technology grows, so does investment. Tens of billions of dollars are being spent on cloud computing-related services each year. This influx is continuing to inc...
What is Cognito in AWS?
Web applications usually allow a valid username and password combination for successful sign in to the application. Modern authentication flows incorporate more approaches to ensure user authentication. When using AWS, this is no exception, thanks to the abilities and features offered b...
The 12 AWS Certifications: Which is Right for You and Your Team?
As companies increasingly shift workloads to the public cloud, cloud computing has moved from a nice-to-have to a core competency in the enterprise. This shift requires a new set of skills to design, deploy, and manage applications in cloud computing.As the market leader and most ma...
Cloud Academy’s Blog Digest: How Do AWS Certifications Increase Your Employability, How to Become a Microsoft Certified Azure Data Engineer, and more
With everything going on right now, it's likely that the only thing you've been reading lately is related to the coronavirus pandemic. It's important to stay informed during these times, but it's also good to jump into something that can take your mind off of the current situation for j...
Which Certifications Should I Get?
As we mentioned in an earlier post, the old AWS slogan, “Cloud is the new normal” is indeed a reality today. Really, cloud has been the new normal for a while now and getting credentials has become an increasingly effective way to quickly showcase your abilities to recruiters and compan...