Render, the previous winner of the TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield, and Fly.io are our top picks for startups of the year in 2022. After looking at several startups, they stood out for two reasons: 1) their business model is the future of our industry, and 2) their approach to simplifying and automating the process of deploying and running applications is groundbreaking.
Although they are not infrastructure-heavy based CDNs (infra-CDNs) like Akamai and Edgio that run on a vast global network of PoPs, they compete with them in some areas.
Fly.io runs on a dedicated network and Render on bare metal. We’ll call Render, Fly.io, and others like Netlify in this category “abstract CDNs” since they abstract away the complexity of deploying and running applications.
How do the infra-CDNs and abstract-CDNs compete? A new definition is required to explain the modern CDN business model, as the standard definition of the traditional CDN is no longer relevant.
CDNs deliver content, applications, APIs, microservices, web services, software, and media over a dedicated global network or existing multi-cloud infrastructure to users at the edge. The infrastructure-heavy CDNs and abstract CDNs enable developers to build, deploy, and secure applications at the edge.
Abstract-CDNs Value Prop
Fly.io and Render are at the forefront of product innovation, enabling developers to quickly deploy and run applications, databases, and web services with incredible ease.
In one example, Render CEO Anurag Goel demonstrates how Mattermost, a popular open-source alternative to Slack, can be installed with the click of the deploy button in a plug-and-play manner, abstracting away the complexity. However, behind the scenes, Render provisions resources like containers, databases, object stores, SSL certs, load balancing, and other required services to run those applications globally in an automated manner. In contrast, deploying Mattermost on AWS would require a DevOps team to set up, deploy, and run.
What Problem Is Being Solved
AWS offers 200 fully featured services and 25 product categories. In some categories like “Compute,” there are a dozen services such as EC2, Outpost, Lambda, etc. Providing the most extensive product portfolio in the industry has its benefits. Alex Haissl, who works for Redburn in equity research, believes AWS is “poised for a $3 trillion value” in the coming years. AWS product categories:
- Analytics | Application Integration | Blockchain | Business Applications | Cloud Financial Management | Compute | Contact Center| Containers| Database | Developer Tools| End User Computing | Front-end Web & Mobile | Games | IoT | Maching Learning | Management & Governance | Media Services | Migrations & Transfer | Network & Content Delivery | Quantum | Robotics | Satellite | Sercurity & IAM | Serverless | Storage
The downside of having the most extensive product portfolio in the industry is that building, deploying, and running applications on AWS is complex, costly, and error-prone for all but the largest companies. As Anurag Goel points out, it took 25 engineers to manage AWS when he was at Stripe. He says that companies in different industries “require the same infrastructure, tooling, and automation” to “maintain and expand undifferentiated platforms.”
The core propositions for Render and Fly.io:
- They abstract away complexity in deploying and running applications
- Improve performance since they are deploying their stack in PoPs close to the eyeball networks
- Reduce costs with simplified pricing models and avoid nickel and diming customers for every service
In summary, what should the business model of the future look like from a business perspective? Here’s a list:
- Simplified pricing models
- Reduce unnecessary fees like egress
- Plug-and-play process for deploying and running applications
- Fully managed SaaS-like service for operating infrastructure resources
What does the future look like from a technology perspective? That’s a more difficult question to answer that we’ll leave for a later time.