Business Insider published an interesting story on “Why nobody can catch up with Amazon” citing a lot of good data points, but then towards the end – the disclosure reads “Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider”, which kind-of lessens the believe-ability of the story. Cloud is comprised of many pieces – compute, storage, load balancing, CDN, and so on. In regards to CDN, Amazon CloudFront is not the leader by any measure. In fact, its a follower, behind many others.
Over the last year, we’ve been fielding many questions on whether CloudFront (“Amazon”) is a threat to Akamai. We’ll answer that question here, and even go one step further by asking the six questions below. Today, there are about forty CDNs around the world; some are pure-plays with their own dedicated infrastructure, and others leverage hybrid clouds such as Amazon AWS.
- Is Amazon CloudFront a threat Akamai?
- Does Amazon perform faster than Akamai?
- Is Amazon CloudFront a threat to CloudFlare?
- Is Amazon faster than CloudFlare?
- Is Amazon CloudFront a threat to the pure-play CDN?
- Is Amazon faster than the pure-play CDN?
We’re going to answer all six questions above with a story, so its crystal clear to the audience. The story is going to be in the form of a fictional Q&A session between Jeff Bezos and Bizety that we’ll call The Ugly Truth.
Disclosure: The information in this post is my own personal opinion. If you find it offensive, stop reading here. Also, I don’t own stock in Amazon, Akamai, or any other public company.
The Ugly Truth: Fictional Q&A Session
Jeff Bezos: Where does CloudFront rank in performance amongst 40+ CDNs? Bizety: If we use The Bell Curve and Normal Distribution, CloudFront falls 2 to 3 standard deviations outside of the mean, which translates to the bottom tier of the barrel.
Jeff Bezos: Can you expand? Bizety: Amazon has 1M+ customers on its platform, and a decent percentage of those customers use CloudFront for content delivery. Having too many customers on a CDN platform is not a good thing, because it impacts performance. An overcrowded CDN platform means all those customers must share the CDN infrastructure resources. At the other end of a the spectrum, if a company builds a brand new global CDN and puts a few customers on it – it will perform super fast, because those few customers are using all that dedicated resources for themselves – routing, caching, etc.
Jeff Bezos: What about CloudFlare? Bizety: There are always exceptions to the rule, and CloudFlare is one of them. CloudFlare has 500k customers, but they do CDN day-in and day-out. They live and die with their CDN. 100% of their resources are dedicated to CDN. They worry about nothing else except their CDN. CloudFront (Amazon) is a nice-to-have, and its a much smaller part of the overall AWS ecosystem. EC2 and S3 get all the love, and CloudFront gets the left overs. The evidence we have is in their features set – the CloudFront feature set is very lacking, and behind the innovation driven CDNs.
Jeff Bezos: Do you think we are a threat to Akamai? Bizety: No. Amazon CloudFront is not a threat to Akamai or the pure-play CDN. In fact, CloudFront is partly responsible to driving innovation in the CDN Ecosystem, because being the cheapest is not a good business model. The CDN Ecosystem is vast and diversified, and every CDN has its part to play. Level 3 is great for streaming, but not necessarily eCommerce. CloudFlare is great for security, but not necessarily live streaming. Amazon CloudFront is great for AWS SME/SMB customers, but not necessarily the enterprise.
Also, keep in mind that CDNs existed way before AWS. And CDNs are by their very nature, cloud companies. Thus, Amazon took the CDN business model of paying for usage, and applied it to compute and storage. Amazon hasn’t really brought anything new and innovative to the CDN Ecosystem except lower pricing. However, in the compute and storage space, they are phenomenal.
Jeff Bezos: Would you move bizety.com to CloudFront if I gave you a deal? Bizety: Honestly, we wouldn’t move to CloudFront if you paid us a few thousands dollars per month. As you’re aware, performance in our industry is everything. Thus, for every X amount in page download latency, it cost Y amount in lost revenue. And the Y amount puts food on the family’s table. Thus, if we change to CloudFront, we lose $. We value our subscribers monthly business, so we like to use premium CDN services, in order to give them great performance.
Also, Amazon’s approach to DDoS Mitigation is really strange. Instead of providing DDoS Mitigation services for a low monthly fee, like everyone else, Amazon recommends customers buy more instances, auto-scaling, Route 53, and so on, making it expensive, cumbersome, and too complex for the average Joe.
The Ugly Truth: Amazon might be the 800 pound gorilla in cloud compute and cloud storage, but in CDN industry, they are Mickey Mouse 🙂