CloudFront: A Low Cost Alternative To Premium CDNs

I've been noticing a steady uptick in the interest in Amazon CloudFront recently, driven by what appears to be a commoditization in the CDN market. This market shift is opening up an opportunity for less feature rich / more cost effective offerings to compete with the premium services such as Akamai.

One of the challenges in adopting CloudFront as your CDN is that it is not a premium service. It lacks many of the features and tools users have come to expect from more sophisticated offerings. But in return it has one compelling advantage: it is cheap.

So for those of you looking to gain the cost benefit of CloudFront and willing to invest a little sweat equity, here are some great lower level data sources you can leverage to fill feature gaps. These include:

  • Billing Statement - The Amazon statement provides the basic information on charges, including usage dates, quantity, description and cost. This is available through the Billing & Cost Management section of the console, and also can be configured to automatically be delivered in an S3 bucket.
  • Usage Reports - These reports provides detailed usage information on CloudFront on an hourly, daily or monthly basis.
  • Usage Charts - Amazon makes available some basic usage charts, that can be configured to show information such as number of requests and data transferred on an hourly or daily basis.
  • Detailed Billing Record (DBR) - This CSV report that can be configured to update into an S3 bucket provide detailed cost information. For CloudFront it provides all charges, and correlates these charges to specific distributions. This provides an authoritative list of all charges for CloudFront.
  • Access Logs - This provides the richest set of data, including information on usage of edge locations, type of traffic, user agent, CNAME, referrer, and so on. I should note though that the access logs are a non-authoritative source, and so you should expect to have some data loss in the logs.

Click on the hyperlinks above for additional detail on the data provided by each source. Hopefully this will get you started on your way to leveraging your new low-cost CDN.