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About Fastly's Cached Content Control features

Fastly has no set hard limit on how long objects will remain cached. Instead, Fastly supports customer-configurable Time to Live (TTL) settings and customer controlled content purging.

Time to Live support

Fastly supports the expiration of content via customer-configurable Time to Live (TTL) settings. TTL settings work as timers on cached customer content. When content has resided in the cache for the entire TTL interval, that content is given the status of "expired." Before Fastly delivers requested content that is expired, the cache checks to see if the content is still valid by checking with the customer's application server first.

If the application server says the content remains unchanged, the cache sets the content's status to "valid" and resets its TTL value. If the object has been changed, it is declared "invalid" because the content has expired. The application server delivers updated content. Fastly CDN Service caches the updated content with the status of "valid", and its TTL timer begins to run.

The fetch and refresh process may take a second or more, and during that time, a Fastly cache may receive dozens or hundreds of end-user requests for that content. Fastly's request collapsing feature groups these requests and fulfills them at once when the application server response is received.

Fastly offers customers the option of setting a global, default TTL for cached content control. When set, Fastly's CDN service caches objects in a consistent manner even when applications are inconsistent in doing so.

Instant Purge support

Fastly supports an Instant Purge feature that allows customers to actively invalidate content. Rather than requiring a customer's network operations and application staff to guess how frequently each bit of content may change, Fastly allows customers to generate an HTTP Purge method that is sent to the CDN Service whenever an application changes or deletes data in its database. The Fastly CDN Service invalidates the associated content throughout the service's cache network, causing a new version of that content to be retrieved from the application server the next time it is requested.

Fastly allows URL-based and key-based purging, as well as purging of all content at once via specific, configurable purging commands. Fastly currently supports Ruby, Python, PHP, and Perl libraries for instant purging.

When purging by URL or surrogate key, Fastly's CDN Service can process thousands of changes per second. The invalidation process takes less than 300 milliseconds, making it possible to deliver dynamic content that changes rapidly and unpredictably. Using Instant Purge, customers can eliminate cache-to-origin HTTP traffic that all other CDN services generate to determine if expired objects are still valid.