Have a good REST and save a fortune in CPU

The REST protocol is a common programming model with the internet. It is basically a one shot model, which scales and has high availability, but can have a very high CPU cost. There are things you can do to reduce the CPU cost. Also, the MQWeb server, has implemented some changes to reduce the cost. See here for the MQ documentation.

The post gives some guidance on reducing the costs, for Liberty based servers.

The traditional model and the REST model

The traditional application model may have a client and a flow to the server

  • Connect to the server and authenticate
  • Debit my account by £500 within syncpoint
  • Credit your account by £500 within syncpoint
  • Commit the transaction
  • Do the next transaction etc
  • At the end of the day, disconnect from the server.

The REST model would be

  • Connect to the server and authenticate and do (Debit my account by £500, credit your account by £500), disconnect

This model has the advantage that it scales. When you initiate a transaction it can go to any one of the available back-end servers. This spreads the load and improves availability.

With the traditional model, the clients connects any available server at the start of day stays connected all day. If a new server becomes available during the day, it may get no workload.

The downside of the REST model is the cost. Establishing a connection and authenticating can be very expensive. I could not find much useful documentation on how to reduce these costs.

There are two parts of getting a REST connection.

  • Establishing the connection
  • Authentication

Establishing the connection

You can have each REST request use a new session for every REST request each of which which involves a full TLS handshake. Two requests could go to different servers, or go to the same server.

You can issue multiple REST request over the same session, to the same backend server.

On my little z/OS, using z/OSMF it takes

  • about 1 second to create a new connection and issue a request and terminate
  • about 0.1 seconds to use the shared session, per REST request.

Establishing the TLS session is expensive, as there is a lot of computation to generate the keys.

For MQWEB, the results are very similar.

Authentication

Once the session has been established each REST request requires authentication.

If you are using userid and password, the values are checked with z/OS.

If you are using client certificate authentication the Subject DN is looked up in the security manager, and if there is a DN to userid mapping, the userid is returned.

Once you have a valid userid, the userid’s access can be obtained from the security manager.

All of these values can be cached in the Liberty web server. So the first time a certificate or userid is used, it will take a longer than successive times.

Information about authentication is then encrypted and passed back in the REST response as the LtpaToken2 cookie.

If a REST request passes the cookie back to the server, then the information in the cookie is used by the server, and fewer checks need to be done.

This cookie can expire, and when it does expire the userid and password, or the certificate DN is checked as before, and the cookie will be updated.

If you do not send the LtpaToken2 cookie, this will cause the passed authentication information to be revalidated. If you want to change userid, do not send the the cookie.

Is any of this documented?

There is not a lot of documentation. There is information Configuring the authentication cache in Liberty.

There is a parameter javax.net.ssl.sessionCacheSize. If this is not set the default is 20480.

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