11436 SSO

Apigee Platform: New Generation Switching for Today's Internet

Mar 27, 2013

In our most recent post in a short series, we began to look at why and how the model of the invisible Internet is changing to support new usage and business models in the visible Internet.

We think of Apigee Platform as analogous to a Cisco switch for today’s Internet traffic - replacing traditional switching software as the backbone and traffic cop for the modern WAN, and in some ways also acting as an “application server in the cloud”. So what are the traits of this modern “application” switching system?

At high speed, switching software takes and scans a packet and makes a determination where to send it. In IP-based routing, a quick decision is made where to send the packet based on message header information. However, routing for API traffic is more complex. The Apigee gateway system must look farther into packets, beyond only the header, to correctly process the API requests. There are many more factors that come into play for routing for API traffic and many policy determinations the API Platform can apply to decisions about how to handle a message.  

(Though here we are comparing the Apigee platform to “switching in the cloud” it also has as many traits of being an “app server in the cloud”…the developer can plug in code that the platform will run or use during switching decisions. Whichever analogy you prefer, it’s clear that it’s doing a lot more processing than earlier generations of switching systems.)

Speed, complexity & the demands of cloud-based, frequently-changing software . . .

Cisco high-speed switches switch at 1 million messages/sec., while the Apigee Gateway can switch at tens of thousands of  messages/sec., though it is doing much more processing on each request than the Cisco switch is doing, and it is doing it in software not hardware.

We can see that the traits of modern “application” switching systems, as compared to 1990s Cisco switching, are as follows:  

  • High speed: Speed is critical for switching software. Compare with applications and programming tools for example that can afford to be less performant, or where speed is judged in half second increments rather than tens of milliseconds. Though the Apigee switch is doing more, and runs more slowly than a hardware switch, performance is still the first requirement, and is the results of years of empiric performance tuning.
  • Complexity: Apigee’s gateway has more decisions at play.
  • Low tolerance for error: This hasn’t changed - and probably never will.
  • Relatively high change frequency: Due to the need for velocity, Apigee is reducing new versions of its switching software monthly.
  • Hosted on transient/shared hardware: Apigee’s switches in the cloud often run in multi-tenant mode, where compute resources are shared across multiple customers and cannot be hogged.
  • Complicated disaster recovery models: Disaster recovery of an app switching system can be much more demanding than simply rebooting a physical switch. Though the systems are designed to be stateless, there are many types of data and metadata that must be present, and up to date, for correct behavior.


The Apigee platform has the high speed and complexity characteristics of OS or switching software but also must meet the demands of running in the cloud and multi-tenancy, the demands of large volumes of disparate data from a myriad of new sources across the Internet, as well as the highest change frequency model that mankind has tried.


Apigee Platform: the new backbone of the Internet

With the emergence of the app and API economy, business models on top of the Internet are changing and evolving at rapid pace. The 'Internet of Things' (IoT), the next disruptive development, in which the majority of Internet traffic, as well as ever bigger and broader data, will be generated by 'things' rather than by human-operated computers, will undoubtedly change our business models even more.

The backplane must change to accommodate these changing usage models on the top.

The not-so-humble act of switching a piece of data or a service request continues to play an integral role in how people accomplish what they need…but the requirements of this switching are unprecedented in terms of complexity of processing, speed requirements, the need to record data, and the hosting and control models in which the switching must run.

The Apigee cloud networking infrastructure uses the power of software and deleloper-pluggable code to make decisions about routing Internet traffic based on complex policy-based requirements, supports running in the cloud and multi-tenancy, supports recording of and access to big and complex data, as well as SaaS requirements for high speed and high change frequency.

The Apigee Platform is “Cisco in the Cloud” - replacing switching software from Cisco, Juniper, and the like, as the backbone and traffic cop for the modern WAN, while in some ways being an “application server in the cloud”.

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