Content Delivery Network

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is an interconnected system of servers deployed in multiple data centers that use geographical proximity as a criteria to deliver content across the Internet. For more information on CDNs and their general use cases and technical details, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content_delivery_network.

Here, you’ll first discover the perks of using a CDN in Liferay DXP and learn about general guidelines for using a CDN in your Liferay DXP instance. Then, you’ll learn the steps to configure a CDN for your Liferay DXP instance. It’s time to distribute your Liferay DXP content around the world!

Using CDN for Performance Enhancements

A CDN serves web resources to users of a Liferay DXP instance. These resources (images, CSS files, JavaScript files, etc.) from the portal are stored on multiple servers around the world. When requested, the resources are retrieved from the server nearest to the user.

The CDN functions as a caching proxy. This means that once static content is copied to a local server, it is stored in a cache for quick and easy retrieval. This drastically improves latency time, because browsers can download static resources from a local server down the street instead of halfway around the world. A user’s request to the CDN for content is directed to specific server machine based on an algorithm. The algorithm attempts to find the server closest to the user. The figure below shows a visual representation of using geographical proximity to improve latency.

Figure 1: The red lines on the map represent the required distances traveled by requests from a server to the user. Using CDN allows a user to request static resources from a much closer local server, improving download times.

Figure 1: The red lines on the map represent the required distances traveled by requests from a server to the user. Using CDN allows a user to request static resources from a much closer local server, improving download times.

Because of the reduced wait time for requests and reduced load on your application server, a CDN is a great option to improve your portal’s performance. Using a CDN with Liferay DXP, however, has some restrictions.

Liferay CDN Requirements

Liferay DXP only works with CDNs that can dynamically retrieve requested resources from Liferay DXP. Dynamic resources are resources which change over time or via interaction with end users and thus cannot be cached. For this reason, you should check with your CDN provider to make sure you don’t have to manually upload anything in order for the CDN to work. The CDN must automatically fetch the content from Liferay DXP.

A Liferay DXP-compatible CDN must work like a transparent proxy: A request first goes to the CDN. If the CDN doesn’t have the requested resource, the CDN makes an identical request back to the origin (Liferay DXP), caches the resource, then serves the resource.

Once you’ve configured Liferay DXP to use a CDN (see below), the CDN not only serves portal resources but also plugin resources (e.g., theme resources or JavaScript files referenced from a plugin’s liferay-portlet.xml file). The CDN only serves resources that are actually included in a plugin. It does not serve resources that are dynamically loaded from external sources.

To get the CDN URL for a resource, developers can simply replace the portal host in the resource path with themeDisplay.getCDNDynamicResourcesHost(). Developers should prefix resources with the CDN host name. They should not manually upload any resources to the CDN or put anything on the CDN which requires permission checking or complex policy access.

There are several properties in Liferay DXP that enable you to configure your CDN and tweak it to suite your portal’s needs. You’ll learn how to do this next.

Configuring Liferay DXP to Use a CDN

Now that you have a general understanding of what a CDN accomplishes and how it’s used in Liferay DXP, it’s time to set one up for yourself. You can set your CDN and its properties using two different methods:

  1. By editing your portal properties file
  2. By using the Control Panel

To configure your CDN via properties file, you need to create a portal-ext.properties file in your Liferay Home directory and set the appropriate CDN properties. You can view the CDN properties and their descriptions by visiting the Content Delivery Network section of the portal.properties HTML document.

Once you configure your CDN host, Liferay DXP generates URLs to the static assets that replace the old host with your new CDN host and so they are automatically cached and served afterwards by the CDN.

To configure your CDN in the Control Panel, navigate to Control PanelConfigurationInstance Settings. In the main configuration, you’ll notice three fields related to CDNs:

  • CDN Host HTTP
  • CDN Host HTTPS
  • CDN Dynamic Resources Enabled

Figure 2: The Control Panel lets you configure your portals CDN.

Figure 2: The Control Panel lets you configure your portal's CDN.

These properties are exactly the same as the ones you can specify in your portal-ext.properties. Make sure to visit the CDN section of the Properties Document referenced previously if you don’t know how to fill in the CDN fields. Once you’re finished, click Save and your old host is replaced with your new CDN host for static content.

As you can see, configuring a CDN is extremely easy, and can drastically reduce latency time and improve your portal’s performance.

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