When we first started working on CloudFlare we knew a few things:
1. There was a huge and unmet need among small and mid-sized websites for better security and performance tools;2. We had great data from Project Honey Pot and other partners that could help us meet that need; but3. Virtually all the traditional solutions designed for enterprises wouldn't work for the websites who most needed help.
If you're a big enterprise and you want performance and security you buy an expensive piece of hardware and contract with a content delivery network or highly connected data center. For the vast majority of websites online, this simply isn't an option. Not only is the cost prohibitive but most people with websites don't have access to their physical servers to install hardware. We knew we had to come up with a better, more modern way to deploy CloudFlare.
One of Lee's great ideas when he and I started Project Honey Pot nearly seven years ago was to ask people to donate a portion of their DNS records to let us build spam traps. We also used the DNS system to deploy the Project's http:BL service. I'm friends with David from OpenDNS and liked how they were able to deploy an amazing security product on the web-surfer end of DNS. So, knowing all that about DNS, we set out to build a system that used DNS to supercharge websites.
For CloudFlare to work we needed to build a globally distributed network of DNS servers. When you sign up for CloudFlare we give you two name servers to list with your registrar for your domain. In reality, these two name servers actually point to a whole cluster of many servers distributed in multiple data centers and load balanced (using anycast and other network voodoo) throughout the network.
While most DNS providers give their nameservers boring names like "ns1.someboringservice.net", we wanted ours to have a personality that represented just how amazing they are. We spent a lot of time trying to think of what embodied the spirit of what these nameservers do for our users until we stumbled upon it: ninjas! They're fast. They're good at defending themselves. And they're stealthy. Just like CloudFlare.
Today, when you sign up for CloudFlare, you are issued two Ninja Nameservers™ (one male, one female). We have a lot so, every website you sign up, you're likely to get a unique combination. Once deployed at your registrar, your assigned ninjas stand watch over your website keeping it safe and ensuring it performs as fast as possible. We had a really talented artist (Alaric Holloway) draw all the ninjas. Links to their full profiles will be online soon. In the meantime, I wanted to introduce: Igor, Alex, Phil, Isla, and Vera.
A full album of all our ninjas can be found on our Facebook page.