Fastly's Fallacy

Last updated on by Christian Koch

Fastly addressed Cloudflare’s performance claims with their own blog, “Lies, damned lies, and (Cloudflare) statistics: debunking Cloudflare’s recent performance tests”, which raises more questions than it answers. First, any performance tests conducted and published by an organization about their own products, even when done in partnership with a third-party should be taken with a grain of salt. This is called marketing, and it serves no purpose to publish something that makes your company or products look bad. Second, the fact is that if Fastly’s engineering leadership is spending their time trying to debunk a competitors claims, they are unfocused, and with the bold and ambitious goals Chief Executive, Joshua Bixby communicated on the 3Q earnings call, there is no time to waste on things like this. Please go build, I don’t believe Fastly has an inferior product, or that they lack talented engineers, but its clear the business and its management team are struggling to find the way forward, and opportunity awaits, but it won’t wait forever.

Now, let’s take a quick look at Fastly’s claims; 1) Fastly says “it’s worth noting that Cloudflare’s infrastructure is not in exactly the same places as ours, and a biased choice of test locations affects the result dramatically.”, Fastly is in 68 markets across 31 countries, while Cloudflare is in ~250 across over 100 countries, and that tells me this statement is quite obvious, Cloudflare has an advantage with a significantly more distributed network, 2) Fastly says “Cloudflare used a free Fastly trial account to conduct their tests. Free trial accounts are designed for limited use compared to paid accounts, and performance under load is not comparable between the two.”, so why would Fastly purposely degrade performance on free accounts, when there are obviously other limitations to impose that wouldn’t impact a potential customer’s impression of the service? 3) Fastly says “Cloudflare conducted their tests in a single hour, on a single day. This fails to normalize for daily traffic patterns or abnormal events and is susceptible to random distortion effects. If you ran several sets of tests at different times of day, it’s likely that at some point, you’d achieve your desired outcome.” Which tells me there is congestion on the Fastly network and if you’re properly managing network capacity, it shouldn’t matter what time of day it is.

So, while Fastly focused on a competitor’s (?) marketing, Cloudflare stayed the course, and powered through another innovation week,—publishing over 30 articles containing details about new products, features, and other updates about its platform and products for enterprise CIO’s.

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