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This post is part of a consultation series that we’re doing along with our friends at The Next Web and Trend Hunter. Each of the three sites has picked a company that’s effectively utilizing new technologies to get them ahead in their space. Here’s our take on The Next Web’s pick, CloudFlare:
CloudFlare is the internet you’ve never heard of. More than just a content delivery network, the service optimizes massive chunks of the web for delivery, screens out hacking and malware attacks, provides analytics, and more. And the service is growing like wildfire.
A year ago, CloudFlare served about five billion page views a month. Today, the yes-we’re-a-content-delivery-network-but-more serves up an astounding 65 billion pages per month.
“We do more traffic than Amazon, Wikipedia, Twitter, Zynga, AOL, Apple, Bing, eBay, PayPal and Instagram combined,” chief executive Matthew Prince told VentureBeat. “We’re about half of a Facebook, and this month we’ll surpass Yahoo in terms of pageviews and unique visitors.”
And it’s all based on a foundation of free.
Most of CloudFlare’s 1500 daily new clients pay the company precisely zero dollars … and never will. And that’s just fine, because they’re the best marketing a company has ever had.
“Soon after we launched we got a big wave of signups from Turkey, all adult sites, Turkish escort services,” says Prince. “We called up a webmaster and he explained that due to the countries liberal government but conservative population, their services were legal but hated.”
To escape the denial of service (DOS) attacks that Turkish hackers started, the escort services turned to CloudFlare. And then they told all their friends.
“We started to get some small Turkish business,” said Prince, “and they paid us a bit.” Larger companies followed, paying more, and today CloudFlare powers the sites of almost every political party in Turkey, many major businesses, and several large government sites … all bringing in considerable revenue.
But it’s not just about marketing. It’s also about the data.
Later that year, CloudFlare hosted the EuroVision finals. The organizers, who typically get 150 million visitors in the final weeks of the singing competition, were dealing with a denial of service attack. Hearing about CloudFlare, they signed up and five minutes later, were back online.
When the CloudFlare engineers analyzed the attack, they realized that the work they’d done to protect the Turkish escort sites was the key piece of the puzzle protecting EuroVision. In other words, the data from the free protected the large, paid account.
That’s how the 65 billion pages served make sense.
But if you’re going to serve that many pages, you had better be very, very efficient. CloudFlare won’t reveal how many servers the company has, but Prince did say that the company has 14 data centers today, and that it is adding nine more over the next 30 days. And, he told VentureBeat, the company still has the vast majority of the $20 million in venture capital that it raised in 2011.
“Our cost to serve a million pages is about $7, and that includes hardware depreciation, salaries, bandwidth, and more,” Prince told VentureBeat. “That’s a metric we track very closely.”
$7 to deliver a million pages is almost unbelievably efficient, and Prince says that number is about 10 times more efficient, as far as CloudFlare can tell, than either Google or Facebook. He adds the caveat that they are doing some different things than CloudFlare, but it’s still an amazing statistic.
Perhaps Google and Facebook will soon be calling to deliver their pages through CloudFlare.
Image credit: Eclipse Digital/ShutterStock