Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Amazon's CloudFront CDN: disappointing

I took a look at CloudFront today. They have really good intentions. The CDN space is quite a mess -- it could easily be a pay-as-you-go, self-service industry. However, players such as Akamai try to make a large profit. The CDN space is especially hard for small sites -- you can't get any reasonable pricing unless you are doing high levels of traffic.

Amazon wants to change all of that. However, I think they made a number of missteps in their initial offering.

  • They aren't using it on amazon.com. They use Level(3)'s CDN! Why should anybody consider using a service Amazon isn't using themselves. This is a chance to prove your CDN in real life.
  • Tiered pricing. In a self-service model, it doesn't make sense to offer different prices for different bandwidth usages. One customer with 100 TB of traffic is the same as 10 customers with 10 TB of traffic.
  • Pay per request. For S3, this made sense. Every request was one disk seek on the servers, and people need to pay for that. However, in a CDN, you are expected to serve from memory. The 1 cent per 10,000 requests effectively adds 6 KB of data to every file. So if you serve a 1 KB file, this increases your cost by 6x. At the very least, the fixed cost per request should be less than that with s3 to account for the lack of disk seeks
  • Lack of peering. Doing a traceroute to cloudfront from a few locations (Carnegie Mellon, colos in New York and LA), it appeared that all of my traffic was going over transit links. In contrast, traffic to amazon.com went over fast and cheap peering links.

I do hope that Amazon fixes up CloudFront. It's a fantastic concept. They have the power to force reason into the market.