California (July 25, 2017): Google is looking to give its public cloud platform the same speed boost that powers the company’s search engine, as well as YouTube.
On Thursday, Neal Cardwell, a senior staff software engineer, published a blog post, which describes the company’s efforts to bring its congestion control algorithm TCP BBR to the Google Cloud Platform.
BBR stands for Bottleneck Bandwidth and Round-trip propagation time, which Google developed in-house and started using with www.google.com and YouTube in 2016. These sorts of congestion control algorithms run inside PCs, smartphone and other devices that are connected to a network and decide how fast to send data from one point to another.
Since the early 1980s, when the roots of the Internet were taking shape, the majority of TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) congestion control algorithms — Google used CUBIC for many years — relied on packet loss to determine whether there was a congested connection between two points. This worked effectively early on as these algorithms were able to match up well with low-bandwidth Internet links.
However, as networks got bigger, and the Internet much faster, Google engineers decided to look at these algorithms and create a new technology that would address bottlenecks in the network before they happened. This is where BBR comes in.
Now, Google is applying BBR to its GCP offering, which should make it faster to retrieve data from the cloud. This is especially important as data is moving, for example, from Europe to the US, or vice versa, and the users of a cloud service want as little lag time as possible, especially if the customer is crunching a big number set in database.
Google is also promoting the BBR technology as a way to serve and load balance traffic going to websites. This could help increase download speeds for users.
“The end result is faster traffic on today’s high-speed backbones, and significantly increased bandwidth and reduced download times for web pages, videos, or other data,” Caldwell writes.
This isn’t Google first effort to speed up the internet. The company pioneered technologies like the QUIC protocol, which was another attempt to reduce congestion and rev up transfer speeds. It’s also developed several innovations in the Google Chrome browser to make websites and web apps load quicker and more smoothly.
The new BBR algorithm, which Google is now with Google.com and its cloud service, was the fruit of two years of research at Google, Cardwell said. Under the protocol it replaced, anything connected to the internet would automatically halve its speed if it detected that “packets,” or units of data, were getting lost in transmission amid congestion. Google’s BBR algorithm essentially gives the network a way to predict what those lost packets were and where they were going, allowing it to avoid slowing transfer rates.