Happy anniversary, Amazon CloudFront: 15 years of evolution and internet advancements | Amazon Web Services

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I can’t believe it’s been 15 years since Amazon CloudFront was launched! When Amazon S3 became available in 2006, developers loved the flexibility and started to build a new kind of globally distributed applications where storage was not a bottleneck. These applications needed to be performant, reliable, and cost-efficient for every user on the planet. So in 2008 a small team (a “two-pizza team“) launched CloudFront in just 200 days. Jeff Barr hinted at the new and yet unnamed service in September and introduced CloudFront two months later.

Since the beginning, CloudFront has provided an easy way to distribute content to end users with low latency, high data transfer speeds, and no long-term commitments. What started as a simple cache for Amazon S3 quickly evolved into a fully featured content delivery network. Now CloudFront delivers applications at blazing speeds across the globe, supporting live sporting events such as NFL, Cricket World Cup, and FIFA World Cup.

At the same time, we also want to provide you with the best tools to secure applications. In 2015, we announced AWS WAF integration with CloudFront to provide fast and secure access control at the edge. Then, we focused on developing robust threat intelligence by combining signals across services. This threat intelligence integrates with CloudFront, adding AWS Shield to protect applications from common exploits and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. For example, we recently detected an unusual spike in HTTP/2 requests to Amazon CloudFront. We quickly realized that CloudFront had automatically mitigated a new type of HTTP request flood DDoS event.

A lot also happens at lower levels than HTTP. For example, when you serve your application with CloudFront, all of the packets received by the application are inspected by a fully inline DDoS mitigation system which doesn’t introduce any observable latency. In this way, L3/L4 DDoS attacks against CloudFront distributions are mitigated in real time.

We also made under-the-hood improvements like s2n-tls (short for “signal to noise”), an open-source implementation of the TLS protocol that has been designed to be small and fast with simplicity as a priority. Another similar improvement is s2n-quic, an open-source QUIC protocol implementation written in Rust.

With CloudFront, you can also control access to content through a number of capabilities. You can restrict access to only authenticated viewers or, through geo-restriction capability, configure the specific geographic locations that can access content.

Security is always important, but not every organization has dedicated security experts on staff. To make robust security more accessible, CloudFront now includes built-in protections such as one-click web application firewall setup, security recommendations, and an intuitive security dashboard. With these integrated security features, teams can put critical safeguards in place without deep security expertise. Our goal is to empower all customers to easily implement security best practices.

Web applications delivery
During the past 15 years, web applications have become much more advanced and essential to end users. When CloudFront launched, our focus was helping deliver content stored in S3 buckets. Dynamic content was introduced to optimize web applications where portions of a website change for each user. Dynamic content also improves access to APIs that need to be delivered globally.

As applications become more distributed, we looked at ways to help developers make efficient use of its global footprint and resources at the edge. To allow customization and personalization of content close to end users and minimize latency, Lambda@Edge was introduced.

When fewer compute resources are needed, CloudFront Functions can run lightweight JavaScript functions across edge locations for low-latency HTTP manipulations and personalized content delivery. Recently, CloudFront Functions expanded to further customize responses, including modifying HTTP status codes and response bodies.

Today, CloudFront handles over 3 trillion HTTP requests daily and uses a global network of more than 600 points of presence and 13 Regional edge caches in more than 100 cities across 50 countries. This scale helps power the most demanding online events. For example, during the 2023 Amazon Prime Day, CloudFront handled peak loads of over 500 million HTTP requests per minute, totaling over 1 trillion HTTP requests.

Amazon CloudFront has more than 600,000 active developers building and delivering applications to end users. To help teams work at their full speed, CloudFront introduced continuous deployment so developers can test and validate configuration changes on a portion of traffic before full deployment.

Media and entertainment
It’s now common to stream music, movies, and TV series to our homes, but 15 years ago, renting DVDs was still the norm. Running streaming servers was technically complex, requiring long-term contracts to access the global infrastructure needed for high performance.

First, we added support for audio and video streaming capabilities using custom protocols since technical standards were still evolving. To handle large audiences and simplify cost-effective delivery of live events, CloudFront launched live HTTP streaming and, shortly after, improved support for both Flash-based (popular at the time) and Apple iOS devices.

As the media industry continued moving to internet-based delivery, AWS acquired Elemental, a pioneer in software-defined video solutions. Integrating Elemental offerings helped provide services, software, and appliances that efficiently and economically scale video infrastructures for use cases such as broadcast and content production.

The evolution of technologies and infrastructure allows for new ways of communication to become possible, such as when NASA did the first-ever live 4K stream from space using CloudFront.

Today, the world’s largest events and leading video platforms rely on CloudFront to deliver massive video catalogs and live stream content to millions. For example, CloudFront delivered streams for the FIFA World Cup 2022 on behalf of more than 19 major broadcasters globally. More recently, CloudFront handled over 120 Tbps of peak data transfer during one of the Thursday Night Football games of the NFL season on Prime Video and helped deliver the Cricket World Cup to millions of viewers across the globe.

What’s next?
Many things have changed during these 15 years but the focus on security, performance, and scalability stays the same. At AWS, it’s always Day 1, and the CloudFront team is constantly looking for ways to improve based on your feedback.

The rise of botnets is driving an ever-evolving, highly dynamic, and shifting threat landscape. Layer 7 DDoS attacks are becoming increasingly prevalent. The pervasiveness of bot traffic is increasing exponentially. As this occurs, we are evolving how we mitigate threats at the network border, at the edge, and in the Region, making it simpler for customers to configure the right security options.

Web applications are becoming more complex and interactive, and viewer expectations on latency and resiliency are even more stringent. This will drive new innovation. As new applications use generative artificial intelligence (AI), needs will evolve. These trends are will continue growing, so our investments will be focused on improving security and edge compute capabilities to support these new use cases.

With the current macroeconomic environment, many customers, especially small and medium-sized businesses and startups, look at how they can reduce their costs. Providing optimal price-performance has always been a priority for CloudFront. Cacheable data transferred to CloudFront edge locations from AWS resources does not incur additional fees. Also, 1 TB of data transfer from CloudFront to the internet per month is included in the free tier. CloudFront operates on a pay-as-you-go model with no upfront costs or minimum usage requirements. For more info, see CloudFront pricing.

As we approach AWS re:Invent, take note of these sessions that can help you learn about the latest innovations and connect with experts:

To learn more on how to speed up your websites and APIs and keep them protected, see the Application Security and Performance section of the AWS Developer Center.

Reduce latency and improve the security for your applications with Amazon CloudFront.

— Danilo

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