The IETF HTTPbis Working Group recently called for expressions of interest in the development of the HTTP/2.0 protocol, with SPDY being one of the candidates to use as a basis.

As a HTTP server and an early implementer of the SPDY protocol, the Jetty project certainly has an interest in HTTP/2.0 and this blog contains the text of our response below.  However it is also very interest to have a read all of the expressions of interest received from industry heavy hitters like:

Reading through these and the thousands of replies, it is clear that there is significant interest and some momentum towards replacing HTTP/1.1, but that the solution is not quite as simple as s/SPDY/HTTP/2.0/.

There is a lot of heat around the suggestion of mandatory encryption (even though no proposal actually has mandatory encryption), and it looks like there is a big divide in the community.

I also think that many of the concerns of the intermediaries (F5, haproxy, squid) are not being well addressed.  This is a mistake often made in previous protocol iterations and we would be well served by taking the time to listen and understand their concerns.  Even simple features such as easy access to host headers for quick routing may have significant benefits.

The Jetty Expression of Interest in HTTP/2.0

(see also the original post and responses)

I’m the project leader of the Jetty project ( and am making this initial response on behalf of the project and not for eclipse as a whole (although we will solicit further feedback from other projects within eclipse). I work for Webtide|Intalio who sell support services around Jetty.

Jetty is an open source server and client written in java that supports the 3.0 Servlet API, HTTP/1.1, Websocket 1.0 and SPDY v3. We have a reasonable market share of java servers (>10% < 30%) and are deployed on everything from tiny embedded servers to very large deployments with over 100k connections per server.

The Jetty project is very interested in the development and standardisation of HTTP/2.0 and intend to be contributors to the WG and early implementers. We are well acquainted with the limitations of HTTP/1.1 and have a desire to see the problems of pipelining and multiple connections (>2) resolved.

The Jetty project SPDY effort is lead by Simone Bordet and it has implemented SPDY v3 with flow control and push. This is available in the main releases of our Jetty-7 and jetty-8 servers (we also have a java SPDY client). The project has also provided an extension to the JVM to implement the TLS NPN extension needed by SPDY, and we understand that several other java SPDY implementations are using this.

We chose SPDY to implement rather than any other HTTP/2.0 proposal mainly because of the support available in deployed browsers, so that we can achieve real world feedback. However, we were also encouraged in our adoption of SPDY by the open, methodical and congenial approach of the SPDY project at Google (not always our experience with projects at Google or elsewhere).

We definitely see the potential of SPDY and it is already being used by some sites. However we still lack the feedback from widespread deployment (it is early days) or from large deployments. We are actively seeking significant sites who are interested in working with us to deploy SPDY.

There are several key features of SPDY that we see as promising:

Header compression greatly improves data density. In our use of Ajax and Comet over HTTP/1.1 we have often hit scalability limits due to network saturation with very poor data density of small massages in large HTTP framing. While websocket is doing a lot to resolve this, we are hoping that SPDY will provide improvement without the need to redevelop applications.

Multiplexing of multiple streams over a single connection is also a good development. Reducing the number of connections that the server must handle is key to scalability, specially as modern HTTP browsers are now exceeding the 2 connection limit. The ability to send out of order responses is good and we also suspect that receiving messages from a single client over a single connection may help reduce some of the non deterministic behaviours that can develop as multiple connections from the same client set cookies or update session state. It will also avoid the issue of load balancers directing connections from the same client to different nodes in a cluster. We recognise the additional cost of multiplexing (extra copies and flow control), but currently believe that it is worth the effort.

We see the potential of server push for content, but are struggling with the lack of meta data knowledge available to know what to push and when. We are currently working on strategies that use the referrer header to identify associated resources that can be pushed together. We also check for if-modified-since headers as an indication that associated content may already be cached and thus a push is not required. We see the challenge of push as not being the protocol to send the content, but in working out the standards for meta data, cache control etc so that we know what to push and when.

We have not yet implemented websocket over SPDY, but do intend to do so if it is supported by the browsers. We see a lot of similarities in the base framing of these two protocols and would hope that eventually only one would need to be well supported.

We are bit ambivalent about the use of NPN and TLS only connections. There is a question to be asked regarding if we should be sending any web content in the clear, and how intermediaries should be able to (or not) filter/inspect/mutate content. However, I personally feel that this is essentially a non technical issue and we should not use a protocol to push any particular agenda. The RTT argument for not supporting in the clear connections is weak as there are several easy technical solutions available. Furthermore, the lack of support for NPN is a barrier to adoption (albeit one that we have broken down for some JVMs at least). Debugging over TLS is and will always be difficult. We would like to HTTP/2.0 support standardised non encrypted connections (at least from TLS offload to server). If a higher level debate determines that web deployments only accept TLS connections, then we are fine with that non technical determination.

I repeat that we selected SPDY to implement because it’s availability in the browsers and not as the result of a technical review against other alternatives. However we are generally pleased with the direction and results obtained so far and look forward to gaining more experience and feedback as it is more widely deployed.

However we do recognise that much of the “goodness” of SPDY can be provided by the other proposals. I’m particularly interested in the HTTP/speed/mobility’s use of websockets as it’s framing layer (as that addressed the concern I raised above). But we currently do not have any plans to implement the alternatives, mainly because of resource limitations and lack of browser support. So currently we are advocates of the SPDY approach in the starship troopers sense: ie we support SPDY until it is dead or we find something better. Of course Jetty is an open platform and we would really welcome and assist any contributors who would like to build on our websocket support to implement HTTP/SM.

We believe that there is high demand for a significant improvement over HTTP/1.1 and that the environment is ripe for a rapid rollout of an alternative/improved protocol and expect that HTTP/1.1 can quickly be replaced. Because of this, we have begun development of jetty-9 which replaces the HTTP protocol centric architecture of jetty-7/8 with something that is much better suited to multiple protocols and multiplexed HTTP semantics. SPDY, Websocket and HTTP/1.1 are true peers in Jetty-9 rather than the newer protocols being implemented as HTTP facades. We believe that jetty-9 will be the ideal platform on which to develop and deploy HTTP/2.0 and we invite anybody with an interest to come contribute to the project.