Using Azure CDN Origin Pull With Cassette

Published on Saturday, October 10, 2015

Update (Feb 2016): Updated to use new CDN Profiles.

For the October update for Keep Track of My Games I wanted to offload my web assets to a CDN. Since I'm already using Microsoft Azure to host the site, I decided to use Azure CDN.

I set it up for "Origin Pull" which means that instead of uploading my assets to the CDN (Azure Blob storage), you request a file from the CDN and Azure will go and get it from your website and then cache it on their servers.

So as an example:

User requests http://mysite.azureedge.net/stylesheets/foo.png
|
|
CDN: have I cached "stylesheets/foo.png?"
  Yes: Serve content from edge cache (closest to user)
  No: Request http://yourwebsites.com/stylesheets/foo.png and serve

You can read more about how to set up origin pull in Azure CDN. In my case, I used "Custom Origin" of "http://keeptrackofmygames.com".

Using CDN with Cassette

I use the .NET library Cassette for bundling & minification for KTOMG--when I started KTOMG there was no Microsoft provided option and Cassette has been really stable.

It works pretty much as you'd expect:

  • Define "bundles" which are sets of scripts/stylesheets
  • Render bundles onto page(s)
  • If debug mode, render individually otherwise minify and concatenate

By default, Cassette will render URLs like this in your source code:

In debug mode:

Bundle: ~/Content/core

- /cassette.axd/asset/Content/bootstrap.css?hash
- /cassette.axd/asset/Content/site.css?hash
- /cassette.axd/asset/Content/app.css?hash

And in production:

/cassette.axd/stylesheet/{hash}/Content/core

But if we want to serve assets over the CDN, we need to plug in our special CDN URL prefix--not only for script/stylesheet references but also references to images in those files.

Luckily, Cassette provides a facility to modify generated URLs by letting you register a IUrlGenerator. Here's my full implementation of this for my CDN:

As you can see, I register a custom IUrlGenerator and a custom IUrlModifier. The default IUrlModifider is Cassette's VirtualDirectoryPrepender and it just prepends "/" to the beginning of every URL but in our case we want to conditionally prepend the Azure CDN endpoint in production.

In production, this will produce the following output:

https://mysite.azureedge.net/cassette.axd/stylesheet/{hash}/Content/core

To allow local debugging and CDN in production I just use an app setting in the web.config. In Azure, I also add an application setting (CdnUrl) through the portal in my production slot with the correct CDN URL and voila--all my assets will now be served over CDN.

Notes

  • Azure CDN does not yet support HTTPS for custom origin domains. So if you want to serve content over http://static.yoursite.com you can't serve it over HTTPS because Azure doesn't allow you to upload or set a SSL certificate to use and insteads uses their own certificate which is not valid for your domain. Vote up the UserVoice issue on this.

  • Azure CDN will serve your entire site, not just assets. There may be a way to prevent browsing the site over CDN (i.e. "assets only"). See this MSDN thread. I have not yet implemented the proposed fix.

  • I am choosing not to point my entire domain to the CDN. Some folks choose to serve their entire site over the CDN which is definitely something you can do. However, in my case, I didn't want to do that. If you instead chose to point your domain to the CDN endpoint, you don't need to do any of this--everything will be served over the CDN. However, note that if your site is highly dynamic this results in a double hop--once to CDN, once to the origin, so you will not see much benefit unless your entire site is mostly static.

About Kamran
Hi, I'm a professional full-stack developer who also loves to write, speak at conferences, work on side projects, contribute to open source, make games, and play them.
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