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Managing Traffic From the Outset - How GTM Can Make Your Deployments Easier

What is GTM

Global Traffic Management, or GTM, is a DNS-based load balancing service that offers application owners a level of flexibility and insight that is unmatched by traditional on-prem solutions. Highly scalable and fault-resilient, GTM offers customers a layer of abstraction between endpoints, so traffic can be easily shifted between targets. However, the platform is not limited to weighted load distribution: GTM can execute intelligent routing decisions based on end-user location, network conditions, and even origin server availability. These features are possible thanks to Akamai's unrivaled visibility into the Internet, which fuels the platform's dynamic, data-based route optimization engine.

Front-End GTM

DNS level load balancing affords domain owners the opportunity to potentially regulate traffic splits before any HTTP layer requests are even sent. Traditionally classified as "front-end" GTM, a property can be configured to control the destination of the initial incoming client request (first circle pictured below):

gtmone.png

While GTM traditionally balances traffic between origin data centers in the second leg, Front-End GTM can assist with a number of important use cases as well.

Deployments Made Easier

One primary example--let's say you are onboarding a hostname onto Akamai's CDN for the first time to procure much-needed performance and security improvements. Without front-end GTM in place, the go-live step will entail updating the applicable hostname's DNS record, and pointing the entry to the new CDN hostname (which will resolve to an Akamai server IP). This deployment method requires transitioning all traffic over to the Akamai configuration at once, however, and rollback may prove cumbersome. If the DNS record points to a GTM property instead, domain owners have the option of easing traffic over to the new Akamai CDN hostname in increments. Simply put, domain owners can 'Akamaize' as much or as little traffic as they see fit during the initial deployment (and increase the ratio over time).  In addition, rollback is considerably easier, as shifting 100% of traffic back to the legacy architecture is as simple as a few clicks in the portal. If a more programmatic switch is preferred, GTM offers an API to manage traffic splits, and liveness tests can facilitate automatic failover if errors are detected.

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Another great use case is deploying a new Akamai certificate. Let's say your security team wants to transition a hostname to another certificate -- or perhaps an important cipher upgrade / TLS version change is required. While these are typically harmless deployments, GTM provides the option to introduce these changes with a phased approach.  The application owner simply needs to establish a new Akamai CDN hostname and associate it with the new certificate. From there, GTM can balance traffic between the old and new certificate settings in the desired manner.

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Conclusion

Without GTM, these enhancements are 'all-or-nothing' deployments and rollback can prove tedious. However, GTM allows these changes to be deployed and retracted seamlessly, granting application owners a comforting level of flexibility and control.

Front-End GTM has many other use cases as well (sending traffic to different endpoints based on geolocation, blocking users based on location, etc.) but phasing in DNS level changes is an often-overlooked benefit. If you have any questions about how front-end (or back-end) GTM can assist with your load balancing needs, please reach out to your Akamai technical representatives or checkout the resources below.

Explore Akamai's Diverse DNS Oriented Solutions

If you find this blog useful, continue your exploration with these references. Everything Akamai deploys depends on our Intelligent Edge DNS platform. Akamai expands our platform to enable a range of services for our customers:

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