Edge Side Includes

One of the most significant advances in Web technology was dynamic page generation. This allowed Web pages to be constructed on...

One of the most significant advances in Web technology was dynamic page generation. This allowed Web pages to be constructed on the fly in response to a visitor's request, rather than beforehand, with no interactive input from users.

Whether using Microsoft's Active Server Pages, Sun's Java Server Pages, or the open source PHP approach, dynamic page generation has provided the basis for most of today's e-commerce. Without it, the kind of customisation we have come to expect from top online business sites would be unthinkable.

But there is a price to be paid for this convenience. E-commerce sites have heavy computational demands placed on their systems by such an approach. After all, as well as serving up the Web pages millions of times, each of these must be created first, drawing on resources perhaps held in various databases.

Relief may be at hand thanks to the rise of edge services. These aim to bring content nearer to users by cacheing it at many locations around the world. As well as speeding the delivery, edge services also reduce the load on the main servers sending out content.

The idea is to allow such edge servers to carry out some of the dynamic page construction using a new markup language called Edge Side Includes. These not only specify what locally-held content is to be inserted where, but provide the central site with important control capabilities - for example, in determining how often material is to be updated. In this way, all the benefits of old-style dynamic page generation are retained, but without the current processing overhead.

Read more on E-commerce technology

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