Cloudflare’s global network currently spans 193 cities across 90+ countries. With over 20 million Internet properties on our network, we increase the security, performance, and reliability of large portions of the Internet every time we add a location.
Expanding Network to New Cities
So far in 2019, we’ve added a score of new locations: Amman, Antananarivo*, Arica*, Asunción, Bengaluru, Buffalo, Casablanca, Córdoba*, Cork, Curitiba, Dakar*, Dar es Salaam, Fortaleza, Göteborg, Guatemala City, Hyderabad, Kigali, Kolkata, Male*, Maputo, Nagpur, Neuquén*, Nicosia, Nouméa, Ottawa, Port-au-Prince, Porto Alegre, Querétaro, Ramallah, and Thessaloniki.
Our Humble Beginnings
When Cloudflare launched in 2010, we focused on putting servers at the Internet’s crossroads: large data centers with key connections, like the Amsterdam Internet Exchange and Equinix Ashburn. This not only provided the most value to the most people at once but was also easier to manage by keeping our servers in the same buildings as all the local ISPs, server providers, and other people they needed to talk to streamline our services.
This is a great approach for bootstrapping a global network, but we’re obsessed with speed in general. There are over five hundred cities in the world with over one million inhabitants, but only a handful of them have the kinds of major Internet exchanges that we targeted. Our goal as a company is to help make a better Internet for all, not just those lucky enough to live in areas with affordable and easily-accessible interconnection points. However, we ran up against two broad, nasty problems: a) running out of major Internet exchanges and b) latency still wasn’t as low as we wanted. Clearly, we had to start scaling in new ways.
One of our first big steps was entering into partnerships around the world with local ISPs, who have many of the same problems we do: ISPs want to save money and provide fast Internet to their customers, but they often don’t have a major Internet exchange nearby to connect to. Adding Cloudflare equipment to their infrastructure effectively brought more of the Internet closer to them. We help them speed up millions of Internet properties while reducing costs by serving traffic locally. Additionally, since all of our servers are designed to support all our products, a relatively small physical footprint can also provide security, performance, reliability, and more.
Upgrading Capacity in Existing Cities
Though it may be obvious and easy to overlook, continuing to build out existing locations is also a key facet of building a global network. This year, we have significantly increased the computational capacity at the edge of our network. Additionally, by making it easier to interconnect with Cloudflare, we have increased the number of unique networks directly connected with us to over 8,000. This makes for a faster, more reliable Internet experience for the >1 billion IPs that we see daily.
To make these capacity upgrades possible for our customers, efficient infrastructure deployment has been one of our keys to success. We want our infrastructure deployment to be targeted and flexible.
The next Cloudflare customer through our door could be a small restaurant owner on a Pro plan with thousands of monthly pageviews or a fast-growing global tech company like Discord. As a result, we need to always stay one step ahead and synthesize a lot of data all at once for our customers.
To accommodate this expansion, our Capacity Planning team is learning new ways to optimize our servers. One key strategy is targeting exactly where to send our servers. However, staying on top of everything isn’t easy - we are a global anycast network, which introduces unpredictability as to where incoming traffic goes. To make things even more difficult, each city can contain as many as five distinct deployments. Planning isn’t just a question of what city to send servers to, it’s one of which address.
To make sense of it all, we tackle the problem with simulations. Some, but not all, of the variables we model include historical traffic growth rates, foreseeable anomalous spikes (e.g., Cyber Day in Chile), and consumption states from our live deal pipeline, as well as product costs, user growth, end-customer adoption. We also add in site reliability, potential for expansion, and expected regional expansion and partnerships, as well as strategic priorities and, of course, feedback from our fantastic Systems Reliability Engineers.
Flexible Supply Chain
Knowing where to send a server is only the first challenge of many when it comes to a global network. Just like our user base, our supply chain must span the entire world while also staying flexible enough to quickly react to time constraints, pricing changes including taxes and tariffs, import/export restrictions and required certifications - not to mention local partnerships many more dynamic location-specific variables. Even more reason we have to stay quick on our feet, there will always be unforeseen roadblocks and detours even in the most well-prepared plans. For example, a planned expansion in our Prague location might warrant an expanded presence in Vienna for failover.
Once servers arrive at our data centers, our Data Center Deployment and Technical Operations teams work with our vendors and on-site data center personnel (our “Remote Hands” and “Smart Hands”) to install the physical server, manage the cabling, and handle other early-stage provisioning processes.
Our architecture, which is designed so that every server can support every service, makes it easier to withstand hardware failures and efficiently load balance workloads between equipment and between locations.
Join Our Team
If working at a rapidly expanding, globally diverse company interests you, we’re hiring for scores of positions, including in the Infrastructure group. If you want to help increase hardware efficiency, deploy and maintain servers, work on our supply chain, or strengthen ISP partnerships, get in touch.
*Represents cities where we have data centers with active Internet ports and where we are configuring our servers to handle traffic for more customers (at the time of publishing)