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Speed: The Final Frontier

by Subbu Varadarajan June 26, 2020

It’s 2020 and we’re exclusively online. Businesses are doubling down on rich dynamic and interactive experiences to boost end user engagement. Performance engineers and top technologists are at war with latency. DevOps teams optimize their caching strategies to boost performance. Application developers complement the DevOps engineers by optimizing the backend. This involves fine-tuning database lookups, business logic, etc. to shave milliseconds for improved site responsiveness. Those extra milliseconds are the difference between success or failure in the online marketplace. 

So engineers have removed as much latency as possible by following all the best practices. But the remaining latency is predominantly caused by physical limitations in your networking and computing infrastructure — where physics is the bottleneck!  The more you make your application dynamic, the more computing delay you incur. Similarly, a wireless device can’t sustain high performance when it suffers from packet loss, jitter, etc. due to adverse network conditions.

To get even faster speed, you either speed up the processor (my kingdom for quantum computing) or break physics and move packets faster than the speed of light (paging Area 51).

It’s clear — you can’t break the laws of physics to speed things up, but what if you could see the future? Could that be used to speed up your application?

I worked on the original implementation of HTTP live streaming at Akamai, and I was an early employee at Shape Security where I got the opportunity to build the world’s first bot-wall. From my vantage point, I recognized that:

  1. Infrastructure doesn’t understand the context of applications and is agnostic to the needs of the end user.
  2. The fundamental physical limits of computation are secretly harming the online end-user experience.
  3. The explosion of mobile computing introduced additional unbreakable physical constraints due to network infrastructure imperfections.

To see the future, we need to know the needs of the application and individual end user. And we need to be able to compute that information in real-time and at scale. I invite you to the world of whitehat bots.

Most of us are familiar with chatbots, service bots, etc. and understand the value they add to all sites. Botnets, on the other hand, have famously infected mass numbers of devices to mount devastating DDoS attacks. Why are they so pervasive? 

Botnets are:

  • Cost-effective (it costs more to defend against Botnet attacks than to mount them)
  • Scalable (many different types of hardware can be used to expand the network)
  • Flexible (can perform any arbitrary task)

I wanted to merge bots’ capabilities into a decentralized platform (a botnet) and make that infrastructure secure to accelerate cloud services at scale. When I shared my vision with Roy, Zycada’s co-founder and CTO, he immediately jumped in and brought in the critical skills needed to make the infrastructure secure and performant. Roy worked at VeriSign to build the world’s first cloud authentication platform, which gave him the ideal security perspective. We joined hands to build the world’s first Whitehat Botnet — the most performant and secure way to give our customers the ultimate edge in the marketplace. 

There are numerous applications for this technology, and in the next blog I’ll touch on why it’s exploding in eCommerce. Until then, I hope I’ve piqued your interest in the future of botnets and look forward to your comments.

After a period in stealth, we recently launched the Zycada Platform with a focus on eCommerce. You can check out that announcement here