Having fast Internet properties means being as few milliseconds as possible away from our customers and their users, no matter where they are on Earth. And because of the design of Cloudflare's network we don't just make Internet properties faster by being closer, we bring our Zero Trust services closer too. So whether you're connecting to a public API, a website, a SaaS application, or your company's internal applications, we're close by.
This is possible by adding new cities, partners, capacity, and cables. And we have seen over and over again how making the Internet faster in a region also can have a clear impact on traffic: if the experience is quicker, people usually do more online.
Cloudflare’s network keeps increasing, and its global footprint does so accordingly. In April 2022 we announced that the Cloudflare network now spans 275 cities and the number keeps growing.
In this blog post we highlight the deployment of our data center in Hagatna, Guam.
Why a blog about Guam?
Guam is about 2,400 km from both Tokyo in the north and Manila in the west, and about 6,100 km from Honolulu in the east. Honolulu itself is the most remote major city in the US and one of the most remote in the world, the closest major city from it being San Francisco, California at 3,700 km. From here one can derive how far Guam is from the US to the west and from Asia to the east.
Why is this relevant? As explained here, latency is the time it takes for data to pass from one point on a network to another. And one of the main reasons behind network latency is the distance between client devices — like a browser on a mobile phone — making requests and the servers responding to those requests. So, if we consider where Guam is geographically, we get a good picture about how Guam’s residents can be affected by the long distances their Internet requests, and responses, have to travel.
This is why every time Cloudflare adds a new location, we help make the Internet a bit faster. The reason is that every new location brings Cloudflare’s services closer to the users. As part of Cloudflare’s mission, the Guam deployment is a perfect example of how we are going from being the most global network on Earth to the most local one as well.
There are 486 active submarine cables and 1,306 landings that are currently active or under construction, running to an estimated 1.3 million km around the globe.
A closer look at specific submarine cables landing in Guam show us that the region is actually well served in terms of submarine cables, with several connections to the mainland such as Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Australia, Indonesia and Hawaii, therefore making Guam more resilient to matters such as the one that affected Tonga in January 2022 due to the impact of a volcanic eruption on submarine cables - we wrote about it here.
The picture above also shows the relevance of Guam for other even more remote locations, such as the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) or the Marshall Islands, which have an ‘extra-hop’ to cover when trying to reach the rest of the Internet. Palau also relies on Guam but, from a resilience point of view, has alternatives to locations such as the Philippines or to Australia.
Presence at Mariana Islands Internet Exchange
Cloudflare’s presence in Guam is through Mariana Islands Internet Exchange, or MARIIX, allowing Cloudflare to peer with participants such as:
- AS 395400 - University of Guam
- AS 9246 - GTA Teleguam
- AS 3605 - DoCoMo Pacific
- AS 7131 - IT&E
- AS 17456 - PDS
As there are multiple participants, these are being added gradually. The first was AS 7131, being served from April 2022, and the latest addition is AS 9246, from July 2022.
As some of these ASNs or ASs (autonomous systems — large networks or group of networks) have their own downstream customers, further ASs can leverage Cloudflare’s deployment at Guam, examples being AS 17893 - Palau National Communications Corp - or AS 21996 - Guam Cell.
Therefore, the Cloudflare deployment brings not only a better (and generally faster) Internet to Guam’s residents, but also to residents in nearby archipelagos that are anchored on Guam. In May 2022, according to UN’s forecasts, the covered resident population in the main areas in the region stands around 171k in Guam, 105k in FSM and 60k in the Marshall Islands.
For this deployment, Cloudflare worked with the skilled MARIIX personnel for the physical installations, provisioning and services turn-up. Despite the geographical distance and time zone differences (Hagatna is 9 hours ahead of GMT but only two hours ahead of the Cloudflare office in Singapore, so the time difference wasn’t a big challenge), all the logistics involved and communications went smoothly. A recent blog posted by APNIC, where we can see some personnel with whom Cloudflare worked, reiterates the valuable work being done locally and the increasing importance of Guam in the region.
Performance impact for local/regional habitants
Before Cloudflare’s deployment in Guam, customers of local ASs trying to reach Internet properties via Cloudflare’s network were redirected mainly to Cloudflare’s deployments in Tokyo and Seattle. This is due to the anycast routing used by Cloudflare — as described here; anycast typically routes incoming traffic to the nearest data center. In the case of Guam, and as previously described, these large distances to the nearest locations represents a distance of thousands of kilometers or, in other words, high latency thus affecting user experience badly.
With Cloudflare’s deployment in Guam, Guam’s and nearby archipelagos’ residents are no longer redirected to those faraway locations, instead they are served locally by the new Cloudflare servers. Although a decrease of a few milliseconds may not seem a lot, it actually represents a significant boost in user experience as latency is dramatically reduced. As the total distance between users and servers is reduced, load time is reduced as well. And as users very often quit waiting for a site to load when the load time is high, the opposite occurs as well, i.e., users are more willing to stay within a site if loading times are good. This improvement represents both a better user experience and higher use of the Internet.
In the case of Guam, we use AS 9246 as an example as it was previously served by Seattle but since around 23h00 UTC 14/July/2022 is served by Guam, as illustrated below:
The following chart displays the median and the 90th percentile of the eyeball TCP RTT for AS 9246 immediately before and after AS 9246 users started to use the Guam deployment:
From the chart above we can derive that the overall reduction for the eyeball TCP RTT immediately before and after Guam’s deployment was:
- Median decreased from 136.3ms to 9.3ms, a 93.2% reduction;
- P90 decreased from 188.7ms to 97.0ms, a 48.5% reduction.
When comparing the [12h00 ; 13h00] UTC period of the 14/July/2022 (therefore, AS 9246 still served by Seattle) vs the same hour but for the 15th/July/2022 (thus AS9246 already served by Guam), the differences are also clear. We pick this period as this is a busy hour period locally since local time equals UTC plus 10 hours:
The median eyeball TCP RTT decreased from 146ms to 12ms, i.e., a massive 91.8% reduction and perhaps, due to already mentioned geographical specificities, one of Cloudflare's deployments representing a larger reduction in latency for the local end users.
Impact on Internet traffic
We can actually see an increase in HTTP requests in Guam since early April, right when we were setting up our Guam data center. The impact of the deployment was more clear after mid-April, with a further step up in mid-June. Comparing March 8 with July 17, there was an 11.5% increase in requests, as illustrated below:
Edge Partnership Program
If you’re an ISP that is interested in hosting a Cloudflare cache to improve performance and reduce backhaul, get in touch on our Edge Partnership Program page. And if you’re a software, data, or network engineer – or just the type of person who is curious and wants to help make the Internet better – consider joining our team.