Welcome!

Web 2.0 Authors: Victoria Livschitz, Lori MacVittie, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Larry Dragich

Related Topics: SOA & WOA, Java, Virtualization, Cloud Expo

SOA & WOA: Article

Five Signs You Need HTML5 WebSockets

You can extend your SOA over the Web and in the cloud

HTML5 WebSocket is an important new technology that helps you build engaging, interactive, real-time web applications quickly and reliably. Sure, HTML5 WebSockets may be the best thing since sliced bread, but is this new technology right for you?

This article identifies five types of web applications that will benefit from HTML5 WebSockets. So, without further ado... give me five!

The Five Signs

  1. Your web application has data that must flow bi-directional simultaneously.
  2. Your web application must scale to large numbers of concurrent users.
  3. Your web application must extend TCP-based protocols to the browser.
  4. Your web application developers need an API that is easy to use.
  5. Your web application must extend SOA over the Web and in the Cloud.

1. Your application has data that must flow bi-directional simultaneously.
When the Web was first conceived, it focused on document retrieval. Users requested a URL and the server delivered an object (for example, a web page or an image file). Today, the Web also comes to us. Servers want to let us know when they have something for us, be it a stock update or a message from a friend. Unfortunately, due to current Web architecture, clients must initiate communication with the server using half-duplex (request/response) HTTP. Even relatively static applications need a way to communicate asynchronously between the client and the server for common tasks, such as spell-checking or search auto-completion.

Up until now, in an effort to simulate full-duplex communication over half-duplex HTTP, developers have contrived clever tricks and techniques using two connections: one for the downstream and one for the upstream. Many of these techniques use polling or long-polling (Comet) to simulate server-initiated push. The maintenance and coordination of two connections causes significant resource consumption overhead and adds lots of complexity. Furthermore, these techniques do not provide true full-duplex communication where data can be transferred between the client and the server simultaneously. Simply put, HTTP was not designed for real-time, full-duplex communication.

Now, HTML5 WebSockets deliver a full-duplex communication model for the Internet: communication between the client and server can now flow in both directions at the same time. For today's web application developers, this new concept opens up entirely new application models without the burden and overhead of earlier approaches.

If you are building a web application that has data that must flow bi-directionally and simultaneously, you need to use HTML5 WebSockets.

2. Your application must scale to large numbers of concurrent users
If you are building a web application for a large number of concurrent users, you are inevitably going to face resource contention, particularly when each of your users must establish a connection to your back-end server. Typically, each of those connections includes the overhead of HTTP's verbose request-and-response protocol, as well as the establishment and teardown of secure connections.

The HTTP request and response model suffers from a significant amount of overhead. When retrieving a large document from a server, a few hundred bytes of HTTP header overhead is not a big deal. Consider what happens, however, when each message sent to a client is only a few bytes, such as a stock price update or a chat message that is only 20 characters long. The majority of the data transmitted in this case is unnecessary HTTP header overhead (up to 2000 or even more bytes for the single message), making the communication highly inefficient.

HTML5 WebSockets specify a new, vastly more efficient way of communicating between clients and servers that is far less taxing on the application and easier for the underlying network infrastructure to handle. Replacing hundreds of HTTP header bytes with just two WebSocket frame bytes leads to a massive reduction in unnecessary network throughput (1000:1). In addition, the lack of continuous polling dramatically reduces latency. All of this means that a single WebSocket server can deal with many more users at once, reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO).

HTML5 WebSockets provide such a dramatic improvement from the old, convoluted hacks that simulate a full-duplex connection in a browser that it prompted Google's Ian Hickson, the HTML5 specification lead, to say:

"Reducing kilobytes of data to 2 bytes... and reducing latency from 150ms to 50ms is far more than marginal. In fact, these two factors alone are enough to make WebSockets seriously interesting to Google."

3. Your application must extend TCP-based protocols to the browser.
Many web applications need to connect end users to information from back-end, TCP-based services. These services are contained in legacy systems, or travel across enterprise message buses via APIs and protocols such as TIBCO EMS, JMS, RMDS, AMQP, XMPP, and Stomp.

Some applications may be composed of several subsystems, each using a different application protocol. For example, one subsystem may require a publish/subscribe programming model that listens and responds to the changing prices of inventory items, another subsystem may receive a large volume of database events pushed from a column-based persistence engine, and yet another subsystem may need to support chat and chat rooms.

By using WebSockets, your application can avoid siloed solutions for each subsystem. You no longer have to use hacks to push data to a browser or use CPU and network-intensive polling to simulate publishing and subscribing. With WebSocket, the W3C and IETF standards bodies have provided an elegant way to enable full-duplex network communication over the Web. In addition, since WebSocket traffic flows over standard HTTP ports (80 and 443), there is no need to open additional ports on corporate firewalls to take advantage of full-duplex communication.

4. Your application developers need an API that is easy to use.
To deliver a compelling, usable application, developers rely on rich client platforms such as Adobe Flex (Flash), Microsoft Silverlight, Java/JavaFx, and JavaScript. However, connecting these rich clients to real-time data over the Web can be challenging. Developers often have to create their own client- and server- side communication libraries, essentially reinventing the wheel to overcome some of the inherent limitations of HTTP.

Consider how much time and effort is required to create a reliable two-way communications protocol and to connect an application server to back-end systems. Testing and securing applications built on top of this protocol is difficult, because it is harder to pinpoint the problem in a proprietary protocol. Moreover, the work is application-specific, thwarting all attempts to re-use it.

HTML5 WebSockets offer a single, standard interface against which to develop. This means developers can spend less time building and testing communication protocols and more time designing a superb client-side experience - without having to redo the back-end work. HTML5 WebSockets eliminate much of the custom development work that engineers have to do to create a fast, secure, full-duplex application.

5. Your application must extend SOA over the web and in the cloud.
Your enterprise service-oriented architecture (SOA) application or SOA product works well on an internal enterprise network, but you now have to deploy your high-performance distributed software over the web - and through the quagmire of firewalls and proxy servers along the way - to leverage all the advantages of a web infrastructure for your demanding customers and even more-demanding management.

With WebSockets, your applications can open a standardized, full-duplex connection over the web. Developers can leverage this connection to extend messages from a SOA inside the firewall to an external SOA, such as a high-performance Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) or a web-based Supply Chain in a cloud environment.

HTML5 WebSockets are more efficient than current architectures, and WebSocket applications can handle more concurrent users and a greater message volume, with less infrastructure. This ability is good for any application that has to deal with capacity constraints, as the number of servers required is lower. Where this really makes a difference, however, is in on-demand computing environments in public and private clouds. In a cloud-computing model, capacity is elastic: you pay for what you use.

Traditionally, there are two ways of handling growing demand. The first is to scale "vertically," which involves buying a bigger machine, adding RAM, and so on. Modern web applications do not use this approach; however; they scale "horizontally" - that is, to handle an increasing load, you add more machines at each of the tiers in the application.

Web applications deployed on elastic computing platforms must be especially aware of their resource consumption. In a cloud, the addition of machines is often automated, so there is no upper limit on resource consumption. Now, inefficient code translates directly into a higher bill at the end of the month, because more virtual machines were spun up to handle the traffic. In these environments, the efficiency of HTML5 WebSockets is particularly compelling.

Summary
This article showed you five reasons why you should be using WebSockets for your web applications. You learned that HTML5 WebSockets can enable true full-duplex communication, can handle large numbers of concurrent users, can extend TCP-based protocols to the browser, is easy to use, and can extend your SOA over the Web and in the cloud.

More Stories By Peter Lubbers

Peter Lubbers is the Director of Documentation and Training at Kaazing where he oversees all aspects of documentation and training. He is the co-author of the Apress book Pro HTML5 Programming and teaches HTML5 training courses. An HTML5 and WebSocket enthusiast, Peter frequently speaks at international events.

Prior to joining Kaazing, Peter worked as an information architect at Oracle, where he wrote many books. He also develops documentation automation solutions and two of his inventions are patented.

A native of the Netherlands, Peter served as a Special Forces commando in the Royal Dutch Green Berets. In his spare time (ha!) Peter likes to run ultra-marathons. He is the 2007 and 2009 ultrarunner.net series champion and three-time winner of the Tahoe Super Triple marathon. Peter lives on the edge of the Tahoe National Forest and loves to run in the Sierra Nevada foothills and around Lake Tahoe (preferably in one go!).

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people's real needs and desires.
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.