A heady list of cloud providers and content delivery network (CDN) companies led by Cloudflare have banded together in an attempt to reduce data transfer fees. That member list includes a number of the market’s big players, but curiously not its biggest.
The newly formed Bandwidth Alliance members include Microsoft, IBM, Digital Ocean, Packet, Vapor IO, Automattic, BackBlaze, DreamHost, Linode, and Scaleway. They are looking to reduce or eliminate fees that are currently charged to transfer data between their respective private network interface (PNI) or private interconnections that typically reside in the same facilities.
Cloudflare CEO and co-founder Matthew Prince in a blog post explained that the company has been working with Google for three years on a separate CDN Interconnect program that has provided discounted data transfer fees of up to 75 percent for mutual Google Cloud and Cloudflare customers. Google is currently not part of the Bandwidth Alliance.
The Bandwidth Alliance’s efforts are centered on Cloudflare’s Argo traffic routing engine. The platform has a control plane to probe network performance data and network topology to plan the most efficient route for data between these private connections. It then uses a data plane to take in that routing information and make sure that the data actually traverses that designated path.
Rustam Lalkaka, director of product at Cloudflare, explained in a blog post that data hosted by Bandwidth Alliance members receives a “limited routing-only version of Argo at no additional charge” as opposed to the “Full Argo” paid service.
“While this does not get all the benefits of Argo’s full performance feature set, it does ensure that traffic is routed to the Cloudflare location nearest where our customer is hosted so traffic can pass across a private network interface (PNI) and therefore enjoy substantially lowered bandwidth costs,” Lalkaka said.
Prince explained that the alliance was looking to fully eliminate data transfer fees for members. The cost benefits are available immediately to Cloudflare customers, with Prince estimating those customers could see up to $50 million in savings per year. Customers working with Bandwidth Alliance members will see a reduction in data transfer fees as those vendors plug into the program.
Jacob Smith, senior vice president of engagement at Packet, said he thinks the Alliance will open up the door to continued dialog between members, “that literally sit next to each other in the network.” He said this would help to solve issues like security and to improve the customer experience. “These are some things that members are not so good at dealing with but others are,” Smith said.
AWS Absent From the Alliance
Besides Google, the Bandwidth Alliance is also missing the largest cloud provider: Amazon Web Services (AWS). Published reports indicated that Cloudflare has reached out to AWS, but that nothing so far has come of that.
Smith explained that while AWS is currently not part of the group, he did not view its formation as being “anti-Amazon.”
“That angle is silly and not really the focus,” Smith said. “It’s really about sending traffic in a smarter way to the benefit of those that are involved.”
AWS has its own Direct Connect program and corresponding partner program. That program offers dedicated network connections between a customer’s network and AWS’s Direct Connect locations.