Cloudflare hopes lack of outbound data fees will convert AWS S3 users to its R2 storage service

The internet company is taking on the dominant AWS S3 service with its new object storage option R2 by promising to help avoid costly outbound-data charges.

Cloudflare is seeking to entice enterprises to use its new R2 object storage service instead of dominant rival Amazon Web Services’ S3 service. The enticement: no “outrageous” charges to move data out of its storage to external services. AWS S3 is known for such egress charges, which can lead to some pretty shocking bills if you aren’t careful.

Rival cloud giants Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud charge similar egress fees for data as AWS does. But—unlike AWS—both Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud substantially discount egress charges for their mutual Cloudflare customers, Cloudflare executives wrote in a July 2021 blog post.

In response to InfoWorld’s request for comment, an AWS spokesperson provided this statement: “We agree that Amazon S3 has been a game changer for developers. 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.”

The big cloud providers don’t charge a similar fee for bringing data in to their cloud, so critics see the egress charges as a means of vendor lockin.

With the announcement of R2—which isn’t a Star Wars reference but is actually just one letter and number before S3—Cloudflare promises to give customers the ability to store data “at Cloudflare’s edge,” meaning data is stored across more than 250 global locations.

“That enables us to drive down the cost of bandwidth and pass that on to customers to completely eliminate egress costs from the object store,” Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince told InfoWorld. He said Cloudflare R2 would cost 10% less than AWS S3 across the board.

Cloudflare has been expanding its reach into the developer community since the debut of its serverless Workers platform in 2017, releasing several developer tools since. Prince said that R2 emerged internally as the company needed a storage solution for its own Images and Pages products, before realizing that it could offer something to external customers too.

AWS S3 does offer some advantages over Cloudflare R2, Prince conceded. For now, Cloudflare decides how best to store your data in R2, including replication for redundancy, with some more granular controls for enterprise users under consideration for later. Prince also said that although R2 offers comparable overall performance to S3, R2’s high-velocity write speeds are “slower than S3” today.

For enterprises that do choose to move from AWS S3 to Cloudflare R2, Prince said migration can be “automatic” for existing S3 customers. Customers can use Cloudflare as a “transparent proxy” in front of any S3-compatible service, so that when objects leave S3 and pass through Cloudflare, R2 stores a copy that will be pulled from in the future, allowing for a gradual migration. He admitted that no customers have gone down this path yet, however.

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