Basis Token Consistency: A Practical Mechanism for Strong Web Cache Consistency
Bradley, Adam D.
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With web caching and cache-related services like CDNs and edge services playing an increasingly significant role in the modern internet, the problem of the weak consistency and coherence provisions in current web protocols is becoming increasingly significant and drawing the attention of the standards community [LCD01]. Toward this end, we present definitions of consistency and coherence for web-like environments, that is, distributed client-server information systems where the semantics of interactions with resource are more general than the read/write operations found in memory hierarchies and distributed file systems. We then present a brief review of proposed mechanisms which strengthen the consistency of caches in the web, focusing upon their conceptual contributions and their weaknesses in real-world practice. These insights motivate a new mechanism, which we call "Basis Token Consistency" or BTC; when implemented at the server, this mechanism allows any client (independent of the presence and conformity of any intermediaries) to maintain a self-consistent view of the server's state. This is accomplished by annotating responses with additional per-resource application information which allows client caches to recognize the obsolescence of currently cached entities and identify responses from other caches which are already stale in light of what has already been seen. The mechanism requires no deviation from the existing client-server communication model, and does not require servers to maintain any additional per-client state. We discuss how our mechanism could be integrated into a fragment-assembling Content Management System (CMS), and present a simulation-driven performance comparison between the BTC algorithm and the use of the Time-To-Live (TTL) heuristic.