Cloudflare targets the cloud object storage market with new R2 service

Cloudflare Inc. today previewed Cloudflare R2 Storage, an upcoming object storage service that the company says will offer lower pricing than existing offerings from the major cloud operators.

R2 advances Cloudflare’s ongoing effort to expand into more parts of the enterprise technology market. As part of the initiative, the company has also been growing its presence in the serverless computing and cybersecurity segments. 

Cloudflare’s new R2 service will face fierce competition when it launches. The cloud-based object storage segment is led by Amazon Web Services Inc.’s Amazon S3, which has been around since 2006. Microsoft Corp. and  Google LLC provide object storage services as part of their respective cloud platforms. There are also other players in the market such as startup Wasabi Technologies Inc., which recently raised $112 million in funding.

The main selling point of Cloudflare’s upcoming R2 service will be its competitive pricing. 

Typically, object storage services are charged based not only on how much capacity a company uses but also the amount of data it transfers to external systems. When a firm moves records from an object storage service to an on-premises database, the operation incurs data transfer expenses. Such expenses are commonly referred to as egress fees. 

Cloudflare says that R2 will do away with egress fees to reduce enterprises’ storage expenses. The company also said that it will waive the cost of data requests, the operations with which applications fetch information from an object storage service, for customers that access records relatively infrequently. Under its current plans for R2, Cloudflare intends to waive data request costs if a customer accesses records in the “single digit requests per second range.”

“We want developers to keep developing, not worrying about their storage bill,” said Cloudflare co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Prince. “Our aim is to make R2 Storage the least expensive, most reliable option for storing data, with no egress charges.”

As for the main line item, storage space, Cloudflare plans to offer capacity at a rate of $0.015 per gigabyte per month. The company said that it intends to keep pricing at 10% least below the fees charged by AWS’ market-leading S3 service. Given that AWS and other major cloud  providers regularly lower their infrastructure rates, Cloudflare will over time have to reduce its pricing as well to consistently offer 10% lower pricing than rivals.

“We agree that Amazon S3 has been a game changer for developers,” an AWS spokesperson said in a statement. “With the deepest feature set and industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance, customers are storing well over 100 trillion objects there today. While we can’t comment on a product that has been announced but not released, we welcome competition generally across our businesses because we believe it is healthy and helps grow markets.”

Cloudflare will use an automated storage tiering mechanism to help it deliver competitive prices for customers. Generally, the faster a piece of storage equipment can retrieve data for applications, the more it costs. Cloud providers optimize expenses by placing data that is retrieved often on high-end hardware and relegating infrequently information to more affordable equipment. Cloudflare plans to take the same approach.

“Behind the scenes, R2 automatically and intelligently manages the tiering of data to drive both performance at peak load and low-cost for infrequently requested objects,” Cloudflare product manager Greg McKeon detailed in a blog post.

Cloudflare will create multiple copies of the information that customers store in R2 to reduce the risk of data loss. If one of the copies goes offline because of an outage, customers will still retain the ability to access their data. 

“R2 will provide 99.999999999% (eleven 9’s) of annual durability, which describes the likelihood of data loss,” McKeon explained. “If you store 1,000,000 objects on R2, you can expect to lose one once every 100,000 years — the same level of durability as other major providers. R2 will be resistant to regional failures, replicating objects multiple times for high availability.”

Cloudflare plans to make R2 available through an open beta program in the near future. The service continues a recent effort by the company to more directly compete with the major infrastructure-as-a-service providers in the lucrative cloud computing market.

Previously, Cloudflare introduced Cloudflare Workers, a service similar to AWS’ serverless AWS Lambda platform. Cloudflare Workers allows developers to run code in the cloud without having to manage the underlying infrastructure resources.

Cloudflare, which began with an initial focus on providing content delivery services for speeding up websites, has also expanded into other markets. The company this year launched a firewall to help organizations protect their networks from hacking attempts. Cloudflare offers a range of other cybersecurity products as well, including tools for encrypting employees’ connections to work applications. 

Image: Cloudflare

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