Despite its little security incident last week, CloudFlare has been on a roll lately. The service, which as its CEO Matthew Prince likes to call it, provides something akin to operations as a service for website owners, now has more than half a million customers. CloudFlare is a mix between a content delivery network that speeds up website load times and an online security service. Its currently being used by a number of major sites and even various US and international government agencies. For these large business customers, CloudFlare now offers two new service plans that go beyond its current free and $20/month offerings.
Business customers can now subscribe to a $200/month service that provides them with dedicated customer support and a DDoS mitigation service, as well as all the features included in the $20/month pro account (as well as two new image optimization features the company released earlier this month).
Larger organizations like enterprise companies, banks and government agencies with additional needs can now also subscribe to the companys enterprise plan which starts at around $3,000/month. This service comes with dedicated account managers and 24/7 phone support.
For both services, CloudFlare is also offering a service level agreement (SLA) that will reimburse paying users for any downtime. Enterprise users will, as Prince told me earlier this week, get an even more generous SLA that will basically reimburse them for 25x the downtime they suffered.
We Were Promised Railguns
One other interesting new feature that we will likely write more about in the future is CloudFlares Railgun optimization, which is currently only available with the business and enterprise plans.
CloudFlare currently operates 14 data centers around the world. As it gets closer to the end user, though, its data centers also get further away from the server where the data actually originates from. To speed up and optimize the data transport between server and data center, CloudFlare developed what is basically a replacement for HTTP. HTTP, however, says CloudFlare, only allows for limited object caching and adds unnecessary latency to communications with your server.
Railgun works more like the codecs used for streaming online video, as it caches the whole site in the data center and just looks at and downloads the few lines of code that changed from the last time it pinged the server. This, says CloudFlare, allows for up to 99.6% compression of content that passes between the origin server and CloudFlare’s global network, including among previously uncachable web objects, resulting in performance gains for a site’s visitors of up to 730%.
Installing Railgun on a server isnt quite trivial yet, Prince told me, but the company is also making this service available to its long list of hosting partners.
Growing To 50 Billion Pageviews/Month By Word Of Mouth
Until now, Prince told me, CloudFlare offered these services on a one-by-one basis and worked with these companies to understand their needs and gather data about how its services are being used in different business segments. Some of the services that are already using CloudFlare include StumbleUpon, StockTwits.com, Slideshare and Clicky. According to StockTwits CTO Chris Corriveau, his company decided to subscribe to the enterprise service for security during an attack on StockTwits.com. We were back online within an hour. Since joining CloudFlare, weve seen performance benefits, too, and added CloudFlare to several more sites.
Interestingly enough, CloudFlare still doesnt have any dedicated sales force. Instead, its been growing mostly based on word of mouth. To underline this point, Prince told me an interesting anecdote involving Turkish escort services that often came under cyberattacks from conservative hackers. After one of them switched to CloudFlare to mitigate these issues, virtually the whole industry switched to using the companys systems. After that, more Turkish e-commerce sites switched and then media sites and even some branches of the Turkish government.
Today, CloudFlare, which launched at TechCrunch Disrupt in September 2010, has just under 500,000 customers and serves close to 50 billion pages per month. Overall, about 475 million unique users pass through its network every month.
Also New: Polish and Mirage
In addition, CloudFlare launched two services for all of its paying customers over the last two days. With Polish, CloudFlare can now automatically optimize the file size of your images. Polish comes in two modes: lossless and lossy. Almost half of the size of an average website today is made up of images, so by reducing the size of these files by up to 50% with the lossy setting and about 21% in lossless mode, CloudFlare is able to significantly speed up the average download time for the sites in its network.
Mirage, the second of these services, is a bit more complex. It doesnt just optimize images for download, but also optimizes them for the device you are downloading them to, as well as the speed of your network connection. In addition, it lazy loads images that arent currently in your browser window, which should speed up the time until a page first appears in your browser.