In the need for speed, Fastly goes all the way to the edge

Fastly knows that speed happens throughout the network. It's now moving to speed things at the edge.

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Fastly is in the business of making sure that consumers of services on the web aren't hampered in their consumption of services by speed issues. Like competitors Akamai, Cloudflare and a host of others, the company is all about removing the network as the weakest link in application delivery.

Founded only five or so years ago, Fastly has grown and now boasts of some high-profile and high-traffic customers including Airbnb, Alaska Airlines, Vimeo, The Guardian, The New York Times and Ticketmaster.

The company is today expanding its offering to include a new "edge cloud platform." The idea of this announcement is to move Fastly away from simply being a content delivery network (CDN), as it explains. Since significant amounts of the traffic traversing the internet is actually generated by users sitting at the edge (think connected cars, wearable devices and connected homes), this addition is designed to both process and serve the data at the edge.

Alongside the launch of its edge cloud platform, Fastly is also announcing three new services that it suggests will help developers build custom solutions: the Fastly Image Optimizer, Load Balancer and Web Application Firewall (WAF). All of these services are designed to complement this edge processing and deliver specific functional benefits, but in a distributed manner.

From the company, the specific value propositions of these three addition are:

  • Fastly WAF: Fastly's cloud-based Web Application Firewall protects customers from attacks designed to compromise web servers and erode user experience. Fastly's WAF provides instant access to security events and notifications from the edge, so businesses have visibility to identify potential application-layer threats and make instant configuration changes to WAF rules.
  • Fastly Image Optimizer: The Fastly Image Optimizer is a real-time image manipulation and delivery solution that speeds up image delivery by serving bandwidth-efficient and device-specific images from the edge, closest to online users. By offloading optimization logic to the edge of Fastly's network, the Image Optimizer eliminates the need to manually optimize and preprocess thousands of image variations across varying devices, browsers and resolutions.
  • Load Balancer: Ideal for companies using multiple active data centers, a multicloud strategy or a combination of both, Fastly's cloud-based Load Balancer optimizes traffic distribution across a powerful multiterabit network for scalability, high availability and instant, reliable experiences.

The CDN market is a huge one, and its growth closely correlates to the growth of the internet more generally. This is hardly surprising, given increasing pressure on the owners of websites and services to ensure they serve up their offerings as quickly and reliably as possible. Analysis firm Forrester suggests that the market will grow to $236 billion by 2020, and while the only thing a Forrester estimate guarantees is that the actual number will be very different to that, suffice it to say that there is a big market opportunity that all of the vendors are trying to garner.

Of course, there is the slight complication that the individual cloud platforms (where, after all, many of these sites and workloads are hosted) offer their own products that fit many of these requirements -- Amazon CloudFront, Microsoft Azure CDN and Google Cloud CDN being the three respective offerings from the three biggest public cloud players. But as is often the case in situations like this, the independent vendors are quick to affirm the extra value that having a third-party provider brings.

Indeed, this "competing while partnering" model is one that Fastly is well aware of. It has a global partnership with the Google Cloud Platform that pairs the Fastly edge cloud platform's edge compute, enforcement and application delivery solutions with Google Cloud's origin platform, in an effort to  extend existing cloud infrastructure as close to the end user as possible.

With this move, Fastly has upped the ante against its CDN competitors -- but also has entered adjacent markets. I suspect that my friends at load-balancing, image-manipulation and web-security companies will all receive this news with much interest.

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