Cloudflare today announced a new partnership with JD Cloud & AI that will add another 150 data centers to its Chinato network. Thanks to a longstanding partnership with Baidu, Cloudflare is currently available in 17 data centers in mainland China. However, this new contract is obviously much more extensive.
CloudFlare's original partnership with Baidu Then as now, the idea was to give Cloudflare a foothold in one of the fastest growing internet markets by helping Chinese companies better reach customers inside and outside the country, but also – and perhaps more importantly – enabling foreign companies to better reach the huge Chinese market.
"I think there are very few western technology companies who have figured out how to operate in China," said Matthew Prince, CEO and co-founder of Cloudflare told me. "And I think we are really proud that we did that. What I have learned about China – certainly in the past six years in which we have worked directly with partners there (…) has been that it did enormous market and an enormous opportunity is (…), but still very narrow – node technology community there – and one with a very long memory. "
He attributes the fact that Cloudflare Baidu has been a good partner for so many years to JD's interest in working with the company. This partnership with Baidu continues (Prince called her a "great partner"). With this new contract with JD, Cloudflare can now reach another group of Chinese companies that are currently using this company's cloud.
"When we first met her, JD really stood out," said Prince. "First of all, I think they are really one of the emerging cloud providers in China. And I think that means that connecting Cloudflare services to JD services will make the entire cloud platform much more robust for Chinese customers." He also noted that JD has relationships with many large Chinese companies that are increasingly seeking global direction.
In order to put this business in the right light, Cloudflare is currently active in around 200 cities. Adding another 150 – even if this is done through a partner – means a significant expansion for the company.
Regarding the deal itself, Prince said his structure was similar to the deal with Baidu. "We bring the technology and know-how to build a network across China. They are investing capital to expand this network and also have some financial guarantees for us. Then we share the benefits of what happens if we can both sell the Chinese network or if JD can sell Cloudflare's services outside of China. "
When the company first went to China via Baidu, it was criticized for entering a market where there are some obvious freedom of expression issues. Prince, who was quite open about freedom of speech, seems to be taking a more pragmatic approach here.
"(Freedom of speech) is certainly something we have thought about a lot when we made the decision to go to China in 2014," he said. "And I think we have learned a lot about it. All over the world, whether China or Turkey or Egypt or the United Kingdom or Brazil or increasingly even the United States, there are rules about what content can be accessed there. Independent of what my personal feelings may look like – and I grew up as the son of a journalist and grew up in the United States and saw the power of a very free press and a really, really, really strong protection of freedom of expression, but I also think that not everyone Country has the same tradition and the same laws as the United States. And I think we have tried to comply with regional laws wherever we operate, and it is difficult to do anything else. "
Cloudflare assumes that it will take three years for all data centers to be online.
"I am very excited about this strategic collaboration with Cloudflare," said Dr. Bowen Zhou, President of JD Cloud & AI. "Cloudflare's Mission to Help Build a Better Internet" closely linked to JD Cloud & AI's commitment to provide the best possible service to global partners. We take advantage of JD.com's extensive experience in extensive business scenarios, as well as logistical and technological capabilities, and believe that this collaboration will provide valuable services that will change the way business is done for users inside and outside of China. "