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CloudFlare CEO: China is Company's Second-Largest Market
Matthew Prince Also Discusses Censorship, Performance, and Customers

Yesterday, I posted the first part of an interview I recently had with Matthew Prince, co-founder and CEO of CloudFlare. Here's the rest of the interview...

Cloud Computing Journal: Like it or not, you get dragged into censorship discussions, whether the topic was your customer LulzSec earlier this year, or some government's attempt to quash a site, or recently, the SOPA debate in Washington. I know you've made your views well-known in your blog -- but in a nutshell, please describe your approach to hosting content that some people wish to censor or ban.

Matthew Prince: CloudFlare is trying to make the whole Internet faster and safer. There are plenty of things that make me personally uncomfortable that appear on the Internet. However I don't think I or any other individual should choose what can and cannot be published.

I wrote about this when LulzSecurity was using our service. It's important to note that, because CloudFlare is not a host, we don't have the ability to remove content from the Internet. If we remove someone from our network, the content doesn't go away, it's just slower.

CCJ: Within this context, if you receive legal, non-extra-judicial requests from, say, the US government or the Chinese government, you will comply, correct?

Matthew: I don't think we've ever received such a request, so if we did we'd check with our lawyers and go from there. We're a law-abiding organization. We deal with legal requests as we get them. However, because we're not the host, there's little we can do if an organization or government is looking to remove content.

CCJ: Back to customers -- who benefits the most from CloudFlare? That is, smaller customers who may not have the ability to secure their sites, larger customers for whom a hackproof site is mission-critical? Or is your "sweet spot" really anyone with a website?

Matthew: I've been surprised by who has adopted CloudFlare. We initially thought that the sites we'd attract would be small, individual blogs. Instead what we've found is that our sweet spot is any site that is experiencing growing pains.

That's meant that the sites that use CloudFlare have been significantly larger than we initially expected. We have large ecommerce sites, Fortune 500 companies, sites with incredibly spiky seasonal traffic, even several national governments that use our service.

Today, CloudFlare powers more traffic than Amazon.com, Wikipedia, Twitter, Zynga, and AOL.com combined. Because CloudFlare gets smarter, both at security and performance, with every new site that joins the network, our hope is that over time we'll get to a point every site will benefit from being a part of the CloudFlare community.

CCJ: What sort of performance improvements do you achieve, and how? How can you help someone from, say, the Philippines, where bandwidth is lacking, and make their site perform better?

Matthew: On average, we double the performance of a website. We are able to do this by caching static portions of a website closer to visitors, by reducing the overall load on a web server, and by optimizing the content of a web page for a particular visitor's device. When you combine these improvements together, on average your page will load twice as fast when it's on our network than before.

CCJ: China's been important to CloudFlare; so what are your plans for China in the coming year or two?

Matthew: I'm spending a lot of my time working on how we can further expand our network into China. It's already our second-largest source of traffic to our network - behind the United States and ahead of Brazil. And we already have a datacenter in Hong Kong which serves much of China.

Our hope is that, as we grow our network there, CloudFlare will make it easy for any company that wants to have the fastest possible presence within China to do so without having to sacrifice performance around the rest of the world.

About Roger Strukhoff
Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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