Matthew Prince, CEO of CloudFlare, has been quoted in the press about the heated competition between CloudFlare and Amazon Cloudfront. But is CloudFlare really like Amazon Cloudfront, even though they compete for the same type of customer? Before the question is answered, let’s do a quick analysis on the CloudFlare identity. CloudFlare isn’t the typical content delivery network. They’re more sophisticated, incorporating several CDN business models into one.
CloudFlare competes with Cloudfront, in that both are acquiring customer’s en mass. CloudFlare also competes with Incapsula, as both offer extensive DDoS protection services for the SMB market. Yet CloudFlare is also similar to Akamai, in that both are pure-play CDNs, owning their respective target markets. Akamai dominates the large enterprise, and CloudFlare has captured a large share of the cost-conscious demographic. In another words, CloudFlare is a hybrid CDN.
CloudFlare vs Amazon Cloudfront 2014 (guesstimates)
- CloudFlare: 200,000 paying customers and $100M to $150M annual revenue
- Amazon Cloudfront: 150,000 paying CDN customers and $125M to $175M in annual CDN revenue,
The most obvious observation about CloudFlare is that they are similar to Amazon Cloudfront because both have tens of thousands of paying customers, if not hundreds of thousands. Also, CloudFlare and Cloudfront have a few recognizable brand name customers in the enterprise space, and some amongst the Alexa Top Ranked websites. But that is where the similarity stops. In fact, CloudFlare is more like Akamai and Limelight, in my view. Why, because CloudFlare is a pure-play CDN. The pure-play CDNs are very different than the non-pure play CDNs, from the perspectives of culture, competition, product development, focus, value prop, sales, and so on.
Amazon vs Google, not Amazon vs CloudFlare
Amazon Cloudfront competes more with Google, Microsoft and IBM, than Cloudflare. I’m sure that Amazon isn’t wasting any marketing cycle’s comparing themselves Cloudflare. Amazon has much bigger fish to fry, and bigger things to worry about like IBM, Google & Microsoft. Also, keep in mind that pure-play CDNs live, eat and breathe CDN, so they are always on top of their game. Pure-play CDNs are forced to survive in the extremely competitive CDN market, and if they don’t they will get sidelined. Amazon on the other hand is not forced to live or die with CDN. They can drop the CDN ball many times, and still chug along because they have compute, storage, and dozens of cloud services in a brunch.
If I’m Matthew Prince, I’d would stop comparing CloudFlare with Cloudfront, and even stop mentioning those two names in the same sentence. CloudFlare is already way ahead Cloudfront, so why go backwards. CloudFlare is the Walmart of the CDN industry, and Amazon Cloudfront is the Costco of the CDN industry. So why does CloudFlare compare itself to Costco. Instead, CloudFlare should compare itself to the Saks Fifth Ave of the CDN industry, which of course is Akamai. Or is Akamai the American Classic Hot Rod, vroom, vroom… Bottom line, CloudFlare needs to aim much higher.