John Graham-Cumming, programmer at Cloudflare, explains the company’s CDN and security products succinctly: “We’re the company you don’t realize you’re using when you browse the Web. If you go to one of over 4 million popular websites, you actually come to our web servers around the world, and we make them more secure and faster.”
As the CDN for over 4 million websites, Cloudflare is an essential provider for accessing businesses gaining access to customers around the globe. Companies rely on Cloudflare to weather sudden bursts in user activity, web-based security issues, and even the dreaded DDoS attack. As such, Cloudflare’s 24/7 cloud-based services cannot go offline, and must accommodate huge amounts of secure traffic in a synchronized, global fashion.
Additionally, routing traffic for customers requires a number of duties be performed at once: HTTP routing, SSL routing, and content caching all must be performed by the same systems, as hardware costs must be minimized. Any solution for building out a global CDN must be lightweight, reliable, and highly performant so as to take full advantage of available hardware. Providing cloud-based services mean working in a multi-user environment, and solutions must be able to make the most of their provided hardware, even when other services are running.
Cloudflare would not exist without NGINX.
“NGINX is core to what Cloudflare does. It is part of the foundational pieces of software we use. There’s a very small list of things that are essential to what we do, and NGINX is one of them,” said Graham-Cumming
He went on: “We chose NGINX primarily for the performance. That means there are multiple different websites running through the same hardware, so we need high performance. We use NGINX for all of the web serving that we do. We use it as a reverse proxy on thousands of machines around the world, said Graham-Cumming.
“We’re running 4 million websites globally, and some of those are very major. We’re taking the traffic load for all of those through NGINX, and in fact, in our machines we run 3 different instances of NGINX. We use one for caching, one for SSL, and one for normal HTTP,” he said.
Despite intense performance and hardware optimization demands, Graham-Cumming said that three instances of NGINX on the same machine are still able to handle the high demands of their customers’ traffic.
“The big benefit we have from NGINX over the long term is that it’s been very stable. So, as well as being performant, as well as being customizable, it does not crash, and when you’re running a service like ours, it can’t.”
Even with global demand, sudden spikes, and intense security concerns at every turn, NGINX remains at the core of Cloudflare’s infrastructure, enabling their business to meet the intense demands for secure worldwide web content distribution.
With over 700 employees around the world, Cloudflare offers a security-focused content distribution network that can mitigate DDOS attacks, handle DNS, and function as a reverse proxy for high traffic websites. The company currently has over 6 million DNS customers, and is adding over 20,000 new customers every day. In 2016 and 2017, Cloudflare was ranked number 11 on the Forbes Cloud 100 List.