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Introducing the Bandwidth Alliance: sharing the benefits of interconnected networks

by Matthew Prince.

At Cloudflare, our mission is to help build a better Internet. That means making the Internet faster, safer and smarter, but also more efficient alongside our cloud partners. As such, wherever we can, we're on the lookout for ways to help save our common customers money. That got us looking into why and how much cloud customers pay for bandwidth.

If you're hosting on most cloud providers, data transfer charges, sometimes known as "bandwidth” or “egress” charges, can be an integral part of your bill. These fees cover the cost of delivering traffic from the cloud all the way to the consumer. However, if you’re using a CDN such as Cloudflare, the cost of data transfer comes in addition to the cost of content delivery.

In some cases, charging makes sense. If you're hosted in a facility in Ashburn, Virginia and someone visits your service from Sydney, Australia there are real costs to moving traffic between the two places. The cloud provider likely hands off traffic to a transit provider or uses its own global backbone to carry the traffic across the United States and then across the Pacific, potentially handing off to other transit providers along the way, until eventually handing it off to the visitor's ISP. Someone has to maintain the expensive infrastructure that hauls the traffic the 9,739 miles from Ashburn to Sydney. It makes sense for the cloud provider to charge a customer to cover the cost of that transit or their own backbone.  For example, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure both send traffic over their highly available, secure, performant backbones of terrestrial fiber, subsea cable and more.  

Peered Connections, Low Incremental Costs

For nearly all major cloud providers, traffic that is delivered to users via Cloudflare, passes across a private network interface (PNI) or private interconnection. That PNI typically occurs within the same facility through a fiber optic cable between routers for the two networks. Unlike when there's a transit provider in between, there's no middleman so neither Cloudflare nor the cloud provider bears incremental costs for transferring the data over this PNI. Cloud providers use these PNI’s to extensively interconnect with third party networks including Cloudflare’s.

Cloudflare automatically carries traffic from the user’s location to the Cloudflare data center nearest your cloud provider and then over such PNIs. Cloudflare is one of the most peered networks in the world, allowing traffic to be carried over such free interconnected links. We at Cloudflare acknowledge that specific customers with highly distributed infrastructures and bandwidth requirements can find it daunting to orchestrate workloads across multiple providers, and so not all traffic passes over such PNIs.

This got us to wonder: could we potentially create a new model and provide our mutual customers with lower costs? We started talking to the most customer-friendly cloud providers that we exchange traffic with and proposed that we look at making our highly efficient and growing interconnects further benefit our mutual customers.

So today — on the eve of Cloudflare's 8th birthday — we're excited to announce the Bandwidth Alliance: a group of forward-thinking cloud and networking companies that are committed to providing the best and most cost-efficient experience for our mutual customers.

Google Cloud: Leaders In Customer-First Pricing

Separately from our newly announced Bandwidth Alliance, we have been working with Google Cloud over the past three years as part of their CDN Interconnect program. That program, which Cloudflare has been a part of since its launch, discounts data transfer fees for mutual Cloudflare/Google Cloud customers by up to 75%. We have worked with Google Cloud to ensure that all our mutual customers now automatically get the discount on their bills without having to do anything. Thus, Google Cloud provides a reduced data transfer fee that will help customers save money in comparison to the standard data transfer fee and this is enabled by the high degree of settlement free peering with Cloudflare.

Microsoft Azure is working on its own CDN interconnect program. Cloudflare is excited to be part of this program and pass on the benefits to our mutual customers.

Thus, Google, and soon Microsoft Azure, provide a highly discounted data transfer fee that will help our mutual customers do more for less.

With the Bandwidth Alliance we wanted to go even further. First, beyond Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure, we worked with several cloud and hosting providers including IBM Cloud to create a group of companies with whom you could get reduced data transfer fees. Second, we implemented a new smart routing system (to learn more read this technical blog post) to ensure that all our customers’ traffic on participating cloud providers could qualify for this offer. And, finally, we agreed with many other cloud providers to not just discount, but to waive data transfer fees entirely for mutual customers.

Founding Members of the Bandwidth Alliance

We are proud to announce the following cloud providers and hosting companies who have joined together with us in committing to reduced or zero bandwidth rates for mutual customers.  

Below is the list of companies from whom you’ll be able to get discounted or eliminated bandwidth fees as a Cloudflare customer. Click on each partner to learn more.

This is an open alliance of like-minded companies and we welcome other members to join whether they be cloud providers, hosting companies, or CDNs. If you are a cloud provider or networking company and aren't listed, we encourage you to email bandwidthalliance@cloudflare.com with a request for inclusion.

Customer Benefit

The Bandwidth Alliance is providing this benefit to all Cloudflare customers at no additional cost. If you're hosted with a member of the Bandwidth Alliance, your data transfer fees should decrease when the required technical and accounting systems are activated by the member. Some of those systems are live today. Some are planning to go live over the months ahead.

To give you some sense, we estimate that current Cloudflare customers could save nearly $50 million in data transfer fees per year from hosting with a Bandwidth Alliance member as these programs come online.

Happy eighth birthday to all the Internet from the Bandwidth Alliance and us at Cloudflare. Enjoy your lower data transfer fees!

Here is what the founding members and customers say:

“At JPMorgan Chase, portability of workloads is essential as we drive a hybrid, multi-cloud strategy. Minimizing the friction of secure app and data mobility between clouds enables companies like ours to be more efficient, dynamic, and truly harness the full potential of cloud technologies,” said Larry Feinsmith, Managing Director and Head of Technology Strategy, Innovation and Partnerships.

“At Automattic we believe in making the web a better place, and part of that is enabling our customers to build and scale their web properties with freedom. We look forward to partnering with the Bandwidth Alliance to further this mission in allowing a freer flow of data on the internet,” said James Grierson, Global Partnerships, Automattic.

“We are excited to partner with Cloudflare to make our high-quality cloud storage more affordable and available than ever. For more than 10 years Backblaze has delivered the most cost effective cloud storage on the planet and being a founding member of the Bandwidth Alliance reinforces our continuing commitment of being transparent and trustworthy to our customers,” said Gleb Budman, CEO and co-founder, Backblaze.

“One of the reasons businesses use DigitalOcean is the significant amounts of bandwidth that we include with our compute and storage products at no additional cost,” said Shiven Ramji, VP, Product, DigitalOcean. “Our partnership with Cloudflare will improve on this by making it even more predictable for businesses to manage their cloud costs, and gain the benefits of the DigitalOcean Cloud and Cloudflare’s CDN.”

“IBM Cloud enables our clients to achieve greater business value by accelerating their journey to cloud to help them build, modernize and migrate their applications,” said Faiyaz Shahpurwala, general manager, IBM Cloud. "To further support our clients, we will expand our collaboration with Cloudflare through the Bandwidth Alliance to waive data transfer fees between IBM and Cloudflare servers for customers using the IBM Cloud Internet Services enterprise plan. This will help our clients enhance security and performance from the cloud to the edge without data transfer fees."

“At Linode, we’re focused on service, value, and simplifying the way developers consume our services. Our partnership with the Bandwidth Alliance will further our goal of providing affordable cloud computing services through predictable, pay as you go pricing," said Thomas Asaro, Chief Operations Officer, Linode.

"At Packet, we're driven to make infrastructure a competitive advantage for our customers," said Ihab Tarazi, CTO at Packet. "Partnering with Cloudflare to wipe out bandwidth transfer fees between our networks was a no-brainer, as both Cloudflare and Packet share a common goal: to build a better, stronger and faster Internet."

"Scaleway, since 2005, provides ultra easy, high performance infrastructure and services to allow our customers to build and scale appliances. We were the first hosting company to offer unlimited and unmetered connectivity, it’s a part of our DNA. We are excited to join the Bandwidth Alliance to further our mission to meet our customers demand to scale on the cloud." Said Arnaud de Bermingham, CEO, Scaleway.

“Vapor IO is delivering the next generation internet by enabling high performance applications at the edge of the wireless network. Our unique edge colocation business allows CDNs, cloud providers and web scale companies to place IT equipment in close proximity to cell towers where they can leverage software-defined interconnections to cross connect or peer with virtually any carrier, private data center, or cloud provider. We are excited to be part of the Bandwidth Alliance to accelerate edge deployments by not charging our mutual customers egress fees.” said  Matthew Trifiro, CMO, Vapor IO.

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