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Cloudflare for Offices


8 min read

Cloudflare's network is one of the biggest, most connected, and fastest in the world. It extends to more than 250 cities. In those cities, we're often present in multiple data centers in order to connect to as many networks and bring our services as close to as many users as possible. We're always asking ourselves: how can we get closer to even more of the world's Internet users?

Today, we're taking a big step toward that goal.

Introducing Cloudflare for Offices. We are creating strategic partnerships that will enable us to extend Cloudflare's network into the world's busiest office buildings and multi-dwelling units. These buildings span the globe, and are where millions of people work every day; now, they’re going to be microseconds away from our global network.

And we're not done. We've built custom secure hardware and partnered with fiber providers to scale this model globally. It will bring a valuable new resource to the literal doorstep of building tenants.

Cloudflare has built a mutually beneficial relationship with the world's ISPs by reducing their operational costs and improving customer performance. Similarly, we expect a mutually beneficial relationship as we roll out Cloudflare for Offices. Real estate operators & service offices upgraded with this amenity increase the value and occupancy of their portfolio. IT teams can enforce a consistent security posture while enabling flexible work environments from any location their employees prefer. And employees in these smart spaces, experiencing faster Internet performance, can be more productive, seamlessly working as they choose, be it at the office, at home, or on the go.

Why offices?

There’s no disputing the fact that the nature of work has undergone a tremendous shift over the past 18 months. While we still don’t know what the future of work will look like exactly, here’s what we do know: it’s going to require more flexibility, all while maintaining security and performance standards that are a prerequisite for operating on today’s Internet. Enabling flexibility, and improving performance AND security (as opposed to trading one off for the other) has been a long held belief of Cloudflare. Alongside, of course, driving value for organizations.

Cloudflare for Offices — by connecting directly with enterprises — enables us to now do that for commercial office space.

No More Band-Aid Boxes in the Basement

There are a variety of advantages to Cloudflare for Offices. First and foremost, it eliminates the need to rely on the costly, rigid hardware solutions and multiple, regional, third parties that are often required to provide secure and performant branch office connectivity. Businesses have maintained expensive and hardware-intensive office networks since the dawn of the modern Internet.

Never have they gotten less return on that investment than through the pandemic.

The hybrid future of work will only exacerbate the high costs and complexity of maintaining and securing this outdated infrastructure. MPLS links. WANs. Hardware firewalls. VPNs. All these remain mainstays of the modern office. In the same way that we look back on maintaining server rooms for compute and storage as complete anachronisms, so too will we soon look back on maintaining all these boxes in an office. We’ve spoken to customers who now have over half of their workforce remote, and who are considering giving up their office space or increasing their presence in shared workspaces. Some are being hamstrung because of a need for MPLS to make their network operate securely. But it’s not just customers. This is a problem that we ourselves have been facing. Setting up new offices, or securing and optimizing shared workspaces, is a huge lift, physically as well as technologically.

Cloudflare for Offices simplifies this: a direct connection to Cloudflare’s network puts all office traffic behind Cloudflare’s services. Now, creating an office is as simple as plugging a cable into our box, and all the security and performance features that an office typically needs are microseconds away. It also enables the creation of custom topologies on Cloudflare's network, dramatically increasing the flexibility of your physical footprint.

"Throughout the pandemic, we've supported our over 12,000 employees to work safely and seamlessly from home or from our offices. Cloudflare solutions have been critical, and we're excited to continue to partner on efficient and strong solutions.”
- Mark Papermaster, CTO and Executive Vice President, Technology and Engineering, AMD

Zero (Trust) to 100 performance

COVID-19 hasn’t just driven a paradigm shift in where people work, however. It’s also driven a paradigm shift in how organizations think about IT security.

The old model — castle and moat — was designed during the desktop era, when most computing happened on premises. Everyone within the walls of the enterprise was considered authenticated; if you were outside the office, you needed to “tunnel” in through the moat in the castle of the office. As more and more users entered the portable era — through laptops and smartphones — then more tunnels were created.

The pandemic made it so that everyone was outside the moat, tunneling into an empty castle. Nobody was in the office anymore. The paradigm has been stretched to a parody.

Google was one of the first organizations to start to think about how things could be done differently: it proposed a model called BeyondCorp, which treated internal employees to an organization similar to how it treated external customers or suppliers to an organization. To put it simply: nobody is trusted, no matter if they’re in the office or not. If you want access to something, be prepared to prove you are who you say you are.

Fast-forward to 2021, and this model — otherwise known as Zero Trust — has become the gold standard of enterprise security, to which more and more organizations are implementing. Cloudflare’s Zero Trust solution — Cloudflare for Teams — has become increasingly popular for not just its advanced functionality and its ease of use, but because, when coupled with our enterprise connectivity offerings, allows you to run more and more of your traffic across Cloudflare’s network. We call this holistic solution Cloudflare One, and it provides your organization a virtual private network in the cloud, with all the associated security and visibility benefits.

Cloudflare for Offices is the onramp for offices onto Cloudflare One. It’s a fast, private onramp for your office network traffic straight onto the Cloudflare network — with all the security and visibility benefits that running your traffic over our network provides.

We also realize that for many organizations, Zero Trust is a journey. Not every customer is ready to go from MPLS and built-out networks to trusting the public Internet overnight. Cloudflare for Offices is a great start in the journey — by building out your own networks on top of Cloudflare, you reduce your threat vectors while being able to keep your existing topologies. This gives you the privacy and security of Cloudflare One, but with the flexibility to build Zero Trust any way you choose.

But security and visibility are not the only benefits. One of the common complaints we hear from customers about competing solutions is that performance can be extremely variable. The proximity Cloudflare has to so many people around the world is important because when employees connect using a Zero Trust solution, at least a subset (but often all) the traffic going from an end-user device needs to connect to the Zero Trust provider. Having Cloudflare equipment close means that the performance of the user device will be vastly increased as opposed to having to connect to a far off data center. You’ve probably read about what happens when Cloudflare takes control of your Last Mile connectivity and your network to your data centers. And you know that connecting to a Cloudflare data center in the same city increases performance, but imagine what happens when you’re connecting to Cloudflare in your office basement. And when you think about all the employees that you have are running on a zero trust model, that performance difference sums up to a lot of additional employee productivity.

Up until now, something like this has been extremely expensive, complicated, and oftentimes, slow.

“We see a lot of potential in the way Cloudflare is bringing its network directly to our office locations. It’s critical that we empower our employees to work productively and securely, and this makes it that much easier for us to do so no matter where our teams are working from in the future–and reducing our network costs along the way.”
- Aaron Dearinger, Edge Architect, Garmin International

Cloudflare for Offices allows for customers to choose their Network as a Service: let us manage your footprint and build your network out however you like.

Living on the Edge

But it’s not just zero trust that gets a boost. Workers, Cloudflare’s serverless platform, runs on the edge from the nearest data center to the user making the request. As you might have already read: it’s fast. With more and more business and application logic being moved to Workers, your end users stand to benefit.

But it does beg the question: just how fast are we talking?

Salesforce Tower overlooking San Francisco in the evening.
Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

The tallest commercial office building in San Francisco is Salesforce Tower.  It’s 1,070 feet tall. A light signal running from the top of the building to the basement along a single-mode fiber cable would take no more than 6 µs (6 microseconds) to complete its journey. Cloudflare For Offices deployments in buildings like this  put customers fractions of a millisecond away from Cloudflare’s network. The edge is becoming indistinguishable in performance from local compute.

Built for Purpose

We’ve written many times before about how Cloudflare designs our hardware. But deploying Cloudflare hardware outside of data centers — and into office basements — presented a new set of challenges. Cooling, energy efficiency, and resiliency were even more important in the design. Similarly, these are going to be deployed to offices all over the world; they needed to be cost-effective. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is also a security aspect to this: we could not assume the same level of access control inside a building as we could inside a data center.

This is where the inherent advantages of designing and owning the hardware come to the fore. Because of it, we’re able to build exactly what we need for the environment: ranging from how resilient these devices need to be, to an appropriate level of security given where they’re going to be operating. In fact, we have been working on hardware security for the last five years in anticipation of the launch of Cloudflare for Offices. We're starting with switching, and we plan to add compute and storage capabilities in short order. Stay tuned for more details.

Join the Revolution

If you’re an organization (tenant) in a large office building, an owner/operator of multi-tenant (or multi-dwelling) real estate, or a co-working space looking to bring Cloudflare to your doorstep — with all the flexibility, performance and security enhancements, and cost savings that would entail — then we’d love for you to get in touch with us.

We protect entire corporate networks, help customers build Internet-scale applications efficiently, accelerate any website or Internet application, ward off DDoS attacks, keep hackers at bay, and can help you on your journey to Zero Trust.

Visit from any device to get started with our free app that makes your Internet faster and safer.

To learn more about our mission to help build a better Internet, start here. If you're looking for a new career direction, check out our open positions.
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Alon Gavrielov|@alongavrielov
Nitin Rao|@NitinBRao

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