CloudFlare Introduces Argo Virtual Backbone

Cloudflare is attempting to take on the problem of routing optimization with the rollout of Argo, a virtual backbone for the Internet that leverages the information gathered from its global PoPs to dramatically improve performance. With Argo’s released in mid-May, Cloudflare announced its beta users experienced a 35% average reduction in latency, a 27% drop in connection errors, and a 60% decrease in cache misses, in addition to improved reliability and lower bandwidth bills.  

Latency and packet loss are an almost inescapable byproduct of BGP, the decades-old routing protocol that is currently used to make routing decisions. These decisions fail to take into account a host of network conditions, including congestion, peak times, packet loss, and other important metrics. Instead, BGP’s algorithm uses a single metric–distance–based on imperfect approximations.

To optimize routing, a wealth of real-time information about networking conditions is needed–something Cloudflare’s 115 global PoPs and 6 million domains can easily supply. By leveraging information on latency and packet loss collected from each request that passes through Cloudflare’s network–which now comprises 10% of all HTTP and HTTPS requests– Argo is able to determine the routing path that will deliver the best quality content at the fastest speed.

Over the past year, Argo has been beta-tested by over 50,000 customers, who have seen reduced latency (35% as measured by time to first byte) and connection errors (27% average), along with significant gains in reliability.

In addition, customers have seen a 60% decrease in cache misses as the result of Argo’s Tiered Cache feature. Rather than travelling to the origin on cache misses, Tiered Cache speeds content delivery and reduces origin server loads by requesting missing cache content from surrounding Cloudflare PoPs. Argo’s Tiered Cache also conserves server resources by concentrating connections to origin servers into a small number of PoPs, allowing for reduced bandwidth and cheaper cloud hosting bills.

Argo is currently available and can be enabled by current customers in the Traffic app of Cloudflare’s dashboard.