Cloudflare today announced Workers Unbound's private beta launch. This is the latest step in its quest to offer a serverless platform that can compete with AWS Lambda.
The company first launched its Workers Edge computing platform in late 2017. Today they use "hundreds of thousands of developers". According to the company, more than 20,000 developers created applications based on the service in the last quarter alone. Cloudflare also uses Worker to run many of its own services, but the platform's first iteration had some limitations. The idea behind Workers Unbound is to get rid of most of them and turn it into a platform that can compete with AWS, Microsoft and Google.
“The original motivation for us to develop Cloudflare Employees shouldn't sell it as a product, but because we used it as our own internal platform for building applications, ”said Matthew Prince, Cloudflare co-founder and CEO, before the announcement today. “Today Cloudflare Teams, our fastest growing product line, work with Cloudflare employees and allow us to innovate, stay agile and agile as quickly as possible and all the things that get harder as you get bigger and bigger company. "
Prince noted that Cloudflare aims to provide third-party developers with all of the services it creates for internal consumption. "The fact that we were able to introduce an entire Zscaler The competitor in almost no time is due to the fact that we had this platform and could build on it ourselves, ”he said.
The original Workers service continues to operate (but under the name Workers Bundled) and essentially becomes Cloudflare's serverless platform for basic workloads that only run for a very short time. As the name suggests, Workers Unbound is intended for more complex and longer-running processes.
When it first launched Workers, the company said its killer role was speed. Today Prince argues that speed obviously remains an important feature – and Cloudflare Workers Unbound promises that cold start latencies will essentially be eliminated. However, developers have also adopted the platform because of its scalability and price.
Indeed, according to Cloudflare, Workers Unbound is now significantly cheaper than similar offers. “With the same workload, Cloudflare Workers Unbound can be 75 percent cheaper than AWS Lambda and 24 percent cheaper than Microsoft Azure features and 52 percent cheaper than Google Cloud features, ”reads today's press release.
As it turned out, the fact that Workers was also an edge computing platform was basically a bonus, but not necessarily why developers took it over.
Another feature that Prince highlighted is regulatory compliance. “I think when we talk to our biggest corporate clients, we realize that these are real companies – not just individual developers who chop themselves off at home – but real companies in the financial services sector or anyone with a regulated industry The only thing that surpasses usability is regulatory compliance that isn't sexy or interesting, or anything other than when your GC says you can't use the XYZ platform, then use the XYZ platform not and that's the end of the story, ”Prince said.
Speed is of course something that developers will always care about. Prince emphasized that the team was very happy with the 5 ms cold start times of the original Workers platform. "But we wanted to get better," he said. "We definitely wanted to be the fastest serverless platform forever – and the only number we know nobody can beat is zero unless they invent a time machine."
The team designed this to queue the process while the two servers are still negotiating their TLS handshake. "We are delighted to be the first cloud computing platform to immediately offer cold start times of zero milliseconds at no additional cost, which means less variability in performance."
Cloudflare also argues that developers can update their code and go live globally in 15 seconds.
Another area the team worked on was to facilitate general use of the service. Key new features include language support such as Python and a new SDK that developers can use to add support for their favorite languages.
Prince owes Cloudflare's ability to launch this platform, which obviously takes up a lot of computing resources – and keeps it affordable – from the fact that it always considered itself to be a security platform first (the team has often said that CDN functionality is more or less randomly). For example, since deep packet inspection was performed, CPUs with relatively high performance were always available on the company's servers. "Our network has been optimized for CPU usage from the start. As a result, it has become much more natural for us to expand our network in this way," he said. "To date, the same computers that run our firewall products are the same computers that run our edge computing platform."
Looking ahead, Prince found that while Workers and Workers Unbound had distributed key-value storage, the team wanted to add a more robust database infrastructure and distributed storage.
The team also explores how applications can be disassembled to bring them closer to where they are running. “You can imagine that you might write an application in the future and we say, 'Listen, the parts of the application that are sensitive to the user of the database may be running in Portland where you are – but if that is The database is located in Ashburn, Virginia, and the parts that are sensitive to latency in the database may run there, ”he said.