The Origins of Fastly – from a Startup to Industry-Leading Next-Gen CDN
Fastly was founded by technologist and entrepreneur Artur Bergman in 2011 as a CDN. He was previously CTO at Wikia, a Quantcast Top 20 site, where he built an in-house content delivery network. At Wikia, Bergman began to see the challenges of using legacy CDN services to handle a highly dynamic set of websites – a property inherent to the content in a wiki. It was where he began to see the importance of caching at the edge and the idea for Fastly was born; indeed Fastly’s ability to cache dynamic content at the edge with instant global purging has set it apart from the beginning, giving it a reputation for speed and reliability worldwide.
Over the last seven years, Bergman as CEO has led Fastly’s rapid scaling into one of the world’s largest edge cloud compute platforms, offering CDN services alongside cybersecurity, load balancing, video and streaming. Fastly today serves over 10% of all Internet requests – around 400 billion daily – powering some of the Internet’s busiest sites, including Spotify, Ticketmaster and The New York Times, alongside a multitude of open source and software developers, including GitHub, OpenSSH, PyPi and RubyGems. Recent additions to its customers include Alaska Airlines, Audi, BuzzFeed, USA Today Network, Reddit, TED and Vice.
Indeed over the last three years, Fastly’s customer base has tripled and it has accordingly increased its network capacity by 775%. Its customer usage has doubled as customers scale utilization of Fastly’s edge cloud platform; and the free open source traffic it supports has grown by 3,000%. Last year, Deloitte named Fastly as one of the Technology Fast 500 for its innovative disruption of business practices in the tech sphere and for named it as one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S.
The business size has necessarily grown as well. The startup’s number of global employees has more than tripled over the last three years, with over half working outside of San Francisco where the company is headquartered. It has expanded to seven global offices around the world, spanning 18 time zones with its total global employee count numbering over 400.
Fastly’s Network Expands to 51 PoP and 22 Tbps Worldwide
Fastly takes a fundamentally different approach to growing its network than other edge computing platforms. Instead of deploying multiple small servers globally, Fastly builds powerful large servers with big memory banks and 100GE circuits for rapid scalability (they enable scaling to 22 terabits per second – Tbps – of connected edge capacity).
Across the first half of 2018, Fastly launched five new PoP in Vancouver, Canada; Santiago, Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina; plus two in India in Mumbai and Chennai. This brings its total global number of PoP to 51, putting Fastly’s 25 Tbps capacity networks within milliseconds of 90% of the world’s population, reducing the need for data requests to return to the origin, instead being able to process them as they travel en route to the user
In the first half of 2018, the company also finished upgrade cycles to its POPs in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia; Paris, France; Madrid, Spain; Denver, Colorado; and Chicago, Illinois. The updates aimed to create “more headroom in the system, ensuring uncongested, free flowing bits”, according to Tom Daly, VP, Infrastructure at Fastly.
Further adding to its network, Fastly recently joined Any2 Denver, JPNAP Tokyo and Osaka, and PITChile, helping its partner networks better reach Fastly. The company is present at 57 Internet Exchange Points worldwide.
Series F Funding Brings in $40M Pre IPO
Earlier this month, Fastly announced it had raised $40M. The round was led by Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners with participation from Sozo Ventures, Swisscom Ventures, and multiple existing investors.
Commenting on their investment, Jack Young, Partner and Head of Venture Capital at Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners (DTCP) in the Silicon Valley Office said, “Speed and security are the backbone of a strong Internet, and Fastly provides the most valuable, differentiated approach to this that we’ve seen,”. Young added, “We look forward to supporting Fastly as it corners the cloud services market and accelerates its diverse leadership.”
Intentions for the new round of financing include further expansion of the company’s edge cloud services, optimizing content delivery, furthering its cybersecurity offerings, and building on its rapid growth in the edge compute space. Bergman says they will also “explore the increasing market demand across financial services, healthcare, and connected vehicles and devices”.
The latest round of funding brings the company’s total fundraising over the past few years to $219M. Last year, the next-gen CDN had a $100M revenue run rate.
“Transparency, Honesty and Authenticity”
In a blog post earlier this month, Bergman explained that across the company’s quick growth over the past seven years, it has “remained focused on scaling our business differently, with care and purpose”. Bergman identifies the company’s core values as “transparency, honesty and authenticity”. Part of this involves how Fastly handles end-user data differently to other Silicon Valley companies. Security and privacy have been a focus from the outset.
The company also continues its practice of charitable giving – supporting nonprofit and open source projects by offering free edge services. They have increased donated bandwidth by more than 100% year-on-year.
Furthermore, Bergman and his HR team are committed to “growing a diverse team that brings broad, global perspectives and experiences to the table” – believing in this both in order to create “an inclusive culture and environment”, but also in business terms – in order to “deliver better experiences for our customers and their end users around the world”. Women represent 42% of the executive team at Fastly and 65% of its engineering leads are women, people of color or LGBTQ (or sit at the intersection of these groups). Compared to many of its competitors in tech (and the corporate world in general), these are impressive figures.
“Today, content served through Fastly is viewed by more than three billion people around the globe every month, equating to more than 75 percent of all worldwide internet users. It’s impossible to build a product that serves the world without building an inclusive team that reflects it,” says Bergman. “Studies show that diverse teams deliver better outcomes. The more diverse our leadership, the easier it is to grow the right way – hiring diverse talent and building technology that provides true value for leading businesses and their users across the world.”
The Fastly Feature Set
The extensive Fastly feature set includes:
The Varnish cache sits at the heart of Fastly’s stack, as does the Varnish Configuration Language (VCL). VCL offers Fastly users and the CDN itself a declarative HTTP processing language with operators and features that work like regular expressions and transformations.
Fastly’s Security Portfolio
Fastly’s security portfolio includes bot protection, TLS encryption and a fully compliant PCI compliant, in addition to:
The Fastly Web Application Firewall (WAF) is implemented using VCL, translated from the ModSecurity project and its language using internal code formulated within Fastly. This means that our WAF can execute in pure VCL on every single cache node inside a service configuration, offering Fastly-compatible performance optimization and control. It is precisely because it is not a separate offering that the WAF offers a superior performance over many of its competitors. As the WAF is maintained internally, Fastly’s developers can ensure it is fully integrated with the entire edge cloud platform.
Fastly uses the OWASP Core Rule Set (CRS) as the basis for a large set of rules that offer coverage for the OWASP Top Ten web application risks. They add to these with application-specific rules from Trustwave in addition to their own internally-developed rules. These rules can be configured by each customer differently; many enable all of the OWASP CRS asides from rules that generate false positives based on their unique traffic patterns, and then determine a threshold following tuning.
The Fastly WAF is directly integrated into Fastly’s overall edge cloud platform, offering businesses direct control and support for IPv6 and HTTP/2. Its WAF operates at the edge, only processing origin traffic, leading to a measured 1.5 millisecond latency – legacy offerings send all their traffic through the WAF, sacrificing speed of service in doing so.
DDoS Protection and Mitigation
Fastly’s DDoS Protection and Mitigation Service is an add-on to customers’ overall edge cloud service; it is offered as an annual renewal service. It includes:
- Layers 3 and 4 DDoS mitigation – filtering out traffic based on port and protocol, only inspecting HTTP or HTTPS requests
- Layer 7 (application layer) DDoS protection (without requiring unnecessarily complicated BGP or DNS routing changes)
- Support of HTTP (port 80) and HTTPS (port 443, TLS)
- Access to Fastly IP space and API endpoints so that you can filter traffic at your origin
- Unlimited traffic overage protection (meaning you won’t be charged more if you experience more attacks or larger attacks that can occur at any time)
- Ongoing attack mitigation support with the ability to create customized filters in VCL to immediately block attacks
- Round the clock security support
The Fastly Image Optimizer is a key part of its overall edge cloud platform, available since April 2017, particularly aimed at e-Commerce, publishing and other content-driven brands who rely upon images to promote their offerings. The Image Optimizer is a real-time image manipulation solution that speeds up image delivery by serving bandwidth-efficient and device-specific images from the edge.
Its integration into the overall edge cloud platform allows for automatic detection of key user details to help aid image optimization including type of device, browser and geolocation. The Fastly Image Optimizer dynamically creates image variations on demand. This also means that businesses can tap into real-time analytics to gain transparency and visibility into how the changes are impacting customer use and quality of experience.
Fastly has started to offer Image Transformation Classes to its customers to “help streamline, secure and support your image delivery workflow”.
Real Time Logging
As part of the launch of three new offerings last month (which we covered here), Fastly introduced a Logging Insights Package. It includes four preconfigured dashboards with the Sumo Logic App for Fastly that can be customized to meet specific enterprise needs. The four dashboards provide an overview of site activity, information about origin performance, quality of service and the type of visitors your site is experiencing.
Fastly has always prioritized speed in its logging, believing that “real-time insights are becoming nearly mandatory in order to help your site, product or service stay competitive, and delight your customers and users daily. Your ability to understand not just what’s happening at the web level — what most web analytics services offer — but also with your end users and deeper into your system provides criticreal-time analytics, al visibility, empowering you to make decisions and changes on the fly”.
Fastly has a miscellany of other features, including the addition of serverless cloud functions in recent years to help customers exploit edge and serverless compute services. The goal: to make their customers’ sites more efficient and better performing, and bring down bandwidth costs. This particularly applies to sites that host downloadable assets like software, saved games or documents where it can significantly reduce bandwidth consumption.
What’s Next for FastlyW
In Bergman’s recent post, he made it clear that the company is currently hiring, expanding its team across all areas, including product, engineering and operations… No doubt new features will follow.