Today Amazon Web Services launched the beta version of its content delivery network service called CloudFront. This is a good move for Amazon, and something that may put the hurt on fellow CDNs such as Limelight and Akamai.

etc_nologoToday Amazon Web Services launched the beta version of its content delivery network service called CloudFront. As Om mentioned in September when the service was announced, this is a good move for Amazon, and something that may put the hurt on fellow CDNs such as Limelight and Akamai. Amazon will charge a usage-based fee, rather than a long-term contract, bringing CDN prices even lower for smaller web players who don’t have the scale to negotiate lower prices. Here’s how it works from the release:

The service caches copies of content close to end users for low latency delivery, while also providing fast, sustained data transfer rates needed to deliver popular objects to end users at scale. CloudFront works seamlessly with Amazon S3, where users store the original versions of objects delivered through the service. Customers need only put their objects into an Amazon S3 bucket and then register that bucket with the new service using a simple API call, which then returns a domain name used to access content through the network of edge locations.

Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon, explains all about CloudFront on his blog.

A content delivery service that would extend Amazon S3 has been something that is very high on the wish list of our customers. They were already successfully using Amazon S3 for some of their content distribution needs, but many wanted the choice to do so with even lower latency and with higher data transfer rates to any place in the world.

He goes on to explain:

Using Amazon CloudFront is dead simple. Many of our private beta customers have reported that it only took them 10-15 minutes from the moment that they first signed up for the service to the moment that Amazon CloudFront was distributing their content.

The second Amazon Web Services principle that sets Amazon CloudFront apart is that no upfront commitments are necessary and you only pay for what you have used. There are no upfront fees or high volume requirements and no negotiations are necessary because we have published low prices from the start.

The second point is the more disruptive one. When Amazon announced its CDN in September we wrote,

Akamai is less likely to be impacted in the near term, but it further commoditizes the CDN business and forces a big shakeout in the industry, taking down the small and the weak. Akamai has been focusing on value-add services, as a way to stay ahead of the commoditization of the basic CDN services.


With prices ranging from 17 cents per gigabyte for the first 10 terabytes sent out a month, to 9 cents per GB for everything over 150 TB, the service seems to undercut the pricing offered by other CDNs for small to medium sized customers. It might be a good thing that Akamai’s looking at diversifying into online advertising.

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. Stacey, can you please explain how this Amazon service is going to have any impact at all on Akamai or Limelight? The new Amazon service does not support streaming, live broadcasting, has no SLA, no credit for outages, provides no reporting or raw logs, can’t pull from origin storage, provides no transcoding and no way to manage the content. These are all things that Akamai, Limelight and other CDNs offer.

    In addition, Amazon’s lowest tier pricing is $0.09 per GB delivered. Limelight and others are less than half that price for very large volume customers. So even Amazon’s pricing is not lower than most of the major CDNs when it comes to volume.

    The Amazon service is very simple and straight forward and great for what it does. But lets be clear, it’s not going to take any business from the major CDNs and it’s not going to force them to lower pricing when they are already cheaper than Amazon’s service.

  2. Stacey Higginbotham Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    Dan, my point is that this gives some options for smaller players who don’t need high volume, adding transparency and eventually pressure to the other players. The features aren’t comparable today, but it’s in beta, so it’s likely Amazon will get there. When it does, I hope the major players will be prepared.

  3. I’m not sure this will compete with the big CDN’s anytime soon.

    One of the biggest downsides is that it requires S3. You have to re architect your site to use this as a CDN if you aren’t already using S3. You have to “preregister” the objects you want to cache. This is how I understand CDN’s worked a long time ago.

    The big CDN’s these days all support using a simple CNAME and header tags to manage it. This means you can just make a DNS change and your behind a CDN. Using some rules in your apache config file you can cache certain parts for longer or shorter intervals (or not at all). You could also cache just part of your site using a subdomain. images.example.com.

    If Amazon could support fetching from another server as an origin, rather than require you to use S3, then that’s something.

    Development isn’t free, especially for smaller sites.

  4. I am one of the developers at Bucket Explorer. Just wanted to share that we now support managing CloudFront using Bucket Explorer’s UI. When we released Bucket Explorer in August 2007, we were featured on this blog and since then, we have released 4 major versions and “a lot” of paid users use it every day. Thanks for that initial post in 2007 :)


  5. Robert – how long is “anytime soon”. I would think competitors are looking forward a few years…

  6. Agreed, for smaller players, this is a great service for customers who have very specific needs but it won’t challenge any of the major CDNs for years to come. Amazon would have to add so much additional functionality to the service that it would take years just to build and deploy it. You can’t turn up a CDN with a bunch of boxes and locations and compete with Akamai or Limelight in terms of size, scale and functionality.

    You saying when the service does “get there” it could compete with the major players but the text in the article talks to putting the “hurt” on Akamai and Limelight as if it is imminent. No where in the article does it say IF Amazon added all the additional functionality, does not say what that functionality is they would have to add, or give any indication of how long it would take them to add it.

  7. Amazon’s Would-be CDN Rival Not Quite Ready for Video « NewTeeVee Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    [...] Amazon’s Would-be CDN Rival Not Quite Ready for Video Today Amazon Web Services launched the beta version of its pay-as-you-go content delivery network service, CloudFront. But the simple service isn’t everything a video shop could want — there’s no streaming, live broadcasting or transcoding, and a low level of customer service. See the GigaOM story and also the discussion in its comments here. [...]

  8. Stacey Higginbotham Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    Dan, okay, I got carried away with my Texan love of bravado. I do appreciate you pointing out the limits of the service, and please check out our New Tee Vee coverage for a deeper dive. My focus was on pricing for smaller players and how this service would be useful for startups today. Eventually I do think it will be a threat, but you’re right that today it’s not.

  9. False Positives » Blog Archive » The Amazon Web Services (AWS) StartUp event in Toronto Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    [...] Nov 18th : Amazon’s CDN is out, via GigaOm : Amazon’s CloudFront Could Storm Rival CDNs, with more details on the AWS blog” Distribute Your Content With Amazon CloudFront and Amazon [...]

  10. Stacey, you are backing down too quickly. Do you really think Amazon won’t provide a challenge for “YEARS to come”? AKAM went public less than 10 years ago, how old is Limelight? How different was the landscape just 3 short years ago? In 2006, no one thought McDonalds could challenge Starbucks. Run a two year stock price comparison, and you will see how quick a well managed competitor can take down a well respected market leader.

Comments have been disabled for this post