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What is AWS CloudFront

AWS CloudFront is the content delivery service with which you can deliver content to destinations quickly and securely. It uses a global edge network of edge locations and AWS regions to deliver content with low latency. If you are wondering how AWS CloudFront offers effective content delivery, you have come to the right blog. In this blog, we talk about AWS CloudFront, how it functions, and many other things in a straightforward way.

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In today’s fast-moving world, be it a product or a service – everything needs to be planned and delivered as fast as possible to end-users. No doubt any delay in the delivery would push you back out of your competitors. This way, content delivery service is no less than any other service or product. It needs to be delivered to users quickly and at the same time securely.

For example, Spotify, Netflix, etc., provides its customers with quick and secure content delivery, such as Video on Demand (VOD) and live video streaming. So, the right technology that provides fast and secure content to end-users is highly-sought by companies. This way, AWS CloudFront is one of the most-sought content delivery services by companies across the globe for effective content delivery.

This blog sheds light on the basics of AWS CloudFront, its working principle, key features, use cases, and benefits in greater detail.

AWS CloudFront: Table Of Contents

What is AWS CloudFront?

AWS CloudFront is one of the global content delivery services that provide high-performance content delivery. In other words, it is a web service that delivers quick content to end-users with low latency. The content can be static or dynamic such as websites, apps, videos, APIs, images, etc. Moreover, AWS CloudFront allows you to customise content delivery. As a result, you can effectively balance content delivery's speed, cost, and security.

Know that AWS CloudFront delivers content to its users with the help of a global Content Delivery Network (CDN) or edge network made up of Points of Presence (PoP). PoPs are nothing but edge locations as well as AWS region centers or caches. Here, edge locations are vital in delivering content with low latency.

This is because they act as data centers in the global edge network and quickly pass contents to end-users. The essential thing about AWS CloudFront is that it performs highly-efficient content delivery with high data transfer rates. As a whole, it ensures availability, reliability, and security in content delivery.

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Why AWS CloudFront?

As you know, AWS CloudFront simplifies content delivery with low latency and high security. Are you like to know the reasons behind this? Here are they:

  • It optimises content delivery with an AWS global delivery network. It means that it ensures seamless content delivery using PoPs distributed across the world
  • It executes automated network mapping and intelligent routing for making effective content delivery
  • It enhances the security of contents by implementing encryption and access control methods
  • It comes with inbuilt data compression and edge-computing facilities
  • It uses the AWS shield standard to protect content from DDoS attacks

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How does AWS CloudFront work?

Let’s see how AWS CloudFront delivers content to users – step by step – from the request for content to delivering it.

  • At first, you need to configure AWS CloudFront based on your content type and applications used.
  • Suppose a user accesses your application and raises a request to access an object. Then, the request is routed to the nearest edge location with the help of DNS. Here, the requested object can be an HTML file, an image file, and so on.
  • Now, the AWS CloudFront verifies the availability of the requested object in the edge location. CloudFront returns the object to the user with low latency if it is available in the edge location.
  • If the requested object is unavailable in the nearest edge location, you can forward the request to the origin servers to fetch the object from there.
  • Origin servers will return the object to the nearest edge location of the user.
  • Once the edge location receives the object's first byte, it returns the object to the user in no time.
  • Mainly, the object is stored in the edge location after that. So, if any user requests the object in the future, it can be immediately delivered to the user with low latency.

In short, when the requested content is available in edge locations, it will be delivered to users immediately. Otherwise, CloudFront fetches the content from the origin servers and delivers it to users. The origin servers can be HTTPS servers, AWS S3 buckets, etc.

What are the Features of AWS CloudFront?

AWS CloudFront has powerful features such as a global edge network, edge computing, enhanced security, DevOps friendliness, real-time metrics, and increased availability.

Let’s discuss them in detail below one by one:
 
Global Delivery Network: AWS CloudFront uses a global-based content delivery network or edge network of over 410+ PoPs worldwide. In other words, this network has 400+ edge locations and 13 AWS regions. Here, AWS regions are also known as regional mid-tier caches. AWS network backbone is the lifeline of AWS CloudFront that connects all the edge locations and AWS regions. This global edge network ensures reliable, low-latency, secure, and high-throughput network connectivity.

Enhanced Security: AWS CloudFront can integrate and work with various AWS services such as AWS Shield, AWS Route S3, and AWS web application firewall. As a result, it supports increasing the security of delivering content to end-users. This integration can establish a strong security layer that is highly scalable and reliable. It helps prevent DDoS attacks or any other attacks that can be made against the global edge network altogether. Additionally, AWS CloudFront offers customers an advanced transport security layer with which they can securely deliver content, applications, and APIs. Also, it is possible to encrypt and secure communication using this protocol.

Edge Computing: CloudFront offers its users excellent edge computing features that are programmable as well as secure. In this regard, CloudFront functions and AWS lambda@edge are critical drivers in edge computing. First, consider CloudFront functions; they simplify high-scale and latency-sensitive content delivery processes. No surprise cloud functions are good at scaling too. It means that they can quickly process millions of requests per second simultaneously with low latency. Next, consider AWS lambda; essentially, it is a general-purpose serverless computing method. It allows customisation in the content delivery process and simplifies computationally-intensive processes.

Real-time Metrics and Logging: Know that AWS CloudFront generates six operational metrics for a single instance. And it is made with the help of AWS CloudWatch. AWS CloudFront comes with two types of logs: standard and real-time. Standard logs are delivered to the AWS S3 bucket, whereas real-time logs are delivered to the data streams you have chosen from the AWS Kinesis data streams. Not just that, you can decide the sampling rate of real-time logs while working with AWS CloudFront.

DevOps-friendliness: No wonder AWS CloudFront provides DevOps capabilities such as fast propagation as well as invalidations. With the support of a full-fledged API, you can quickly create, maintain, and configure AWS CloudFront instances. CloudFront allows seamless access tools such as AWS Cloudformation, Code commit, Codedeploy, and AWS SDKs for developers. By using AWS CloudFront, you can customise the instance behaviors such as choosing compression modes, caching and forwarding data, and many more. Besides, CloudFront allows you to find the location of the users.

Increased Availability: As you know, Edge locations and AWS regional regions cache contents. So, when a user requests content, the content can be fetched from the edge locations and region caches and delivered to the user. If the requested content is unavailable in the mentioned locations, then the content is fetched from the origin servers. So, the number of origin requests is minimised. Because of this, the availability of applications in origin servers can be increased significantly.

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What are the Use-cases of AWS CloudFront?

As AWS CloudFront has many noteworthy features and capabilities, you can undeniably use this tool in many efficient ways. Let’s have a look at them as follows:

High-velocity Static Content Delivery:

No wonder AWS CloudFront executes fast delivery of static objects across the world. The static objects can be style sheets, images, JavaScript, etc. Mainly, the AWS edge network, as well as edge locations, play an essential role in delivering fast, secure, and reliable content delivery to its users. AWS CloudFront works with the AWS S3 bucket in delivering static content simply because the AWS S3 bucket is good in access control.

Delivering dynamic live-streaming Video content and VOD:

If you raise a request to access a Video on Demand (VOD), AWS CloudFront uses the tools such as MPEG DASH, Microsoft smooth streaming, Apple HLS, and CMAF for quick content delivery. Similarly, if you raise a request to access a live stream, AWS CloudFront caches the associated media fragments in edge locations. When there are multiple requests for live streams, AWS CloudFront performs everything in the correct order.

Encrypting Specific Fields for Secure Delivery:

Know that you can implement encryption at the field level with which you can protect specific data throughout its journey in content delivery. In this regard, you can use the public key for encrypting fields. Moreover, configuring HTTPS with CloudFront ensures the security of the origin servers. It allows only specific applications to access objects in origin servers.

Customizing at edge locations:

AWS CloudFront allows customising contents at edge locations by running serverless code, providing low latency. For example, AWS CloudFront returns a custom error message when the origin server you try to access is down due to maintenance. Otherwise, it will enable an HTTPS error message.

Also, AWS CloudFront allows you to use a function to authorise users before forwarding their content requests directly to the origin servers. Moreover, you can use lambda edge with AWS CloudFront to customise content in multiple ways.

What are the Pricing details of AWS CloudFront services?

AWS CloudFront offers customers many pricing schemes considering their various needs and demands. Want to know them in detail? Let’s have a look at below:

Free Tier: Every customer can make data transfer up to 1 TB based on this scheme. They are allowed 10,000,000 HTTP and HTTPS requests. Also, they are allowed for 2,000,000 function invocations. The free-tier scheme is calculated for every month for every customer. Note that the unused data won’t roll over for the next month.

On-demand Pricing: AWS CloudFront charges for all HTTP and HTTPS requests in this pricing method. It is important to note that customers who spend up to 10 TB/month or more will be eligible for discounted pricing. Also, pricing depends on the geographic locations involved in the content delivery process.

CloudFront Saving Bundle: In this pricing type, customers can save up to 30 percent if they make a complete one-year commitment. Also, this bundle comes with free AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF) usage. Importantly, you can use WAF for up to 10% of the committed data usage.

Custom Pricing: According to this pricing, customers must commit data transfer to a minimum of 10 TB every month, which should continue for 12 months. AWS would offer discounts based on how much data transfer a customer commit.

Cloudfront Functions Pricing: In this pricing type, Cloudfront charges customers based on the total number of invocations made in all functions. Cloudfront functions usually make an invocation whenever it responds to a CloudFront event. Cloudfront charges $0.10 per 1 million invocations.

Real-time log requests pricing: The pricing of real-time log requests is based on the number of log lines generated by CloudFront. Cloudfront charges $0.01 for every 1,000,000 loglines generated by its customers.
Pricing for Custom SSL Certificate: Cloudfront charges $ 600 monthly for every custom SSL certificate associated with the CloudFront instances.

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What are the Benefits of AWS CloudFront?

Of course! There are a lot of merits for customers if they adopt AWS CloudFront. Let’s list them in the following:

  • You can transfer contents across global in milliseconds
  • You can play high-quality live streams and VOD on any device with absolute consistency
  • AWS CloudFront easily scales with high transfer rates
  • It automatically distributes patches and updates to its instances.
  • On top of all, it is simple to use and boosts productivity significantly.

Conclusion:

In a nutshell, AWS CloudFront is the tool you can use to deliver high-speed and secure content to end-users. It doesn't matter whether it is dynamic or static content, simple or intensive content, AWS CloudFront performs content delivery accurately. Also, this cloud-based service offers many wonderful features, such as edge computing, real-time metrics and logging, scaling, availability, and many more. That’s all! If we are on the same page, this blog might have helped you uncover many insights about AWS CloudFront.

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Last updated: 06 December 2022
About Author
Keerthi Sai

Keerthi Sai is a Senior Writer at Mindmajix with tons of content creation experience in the areas of cloud computing, BI, Perl Scripting. She also creates content on Salesforce, Microstrategy, and Cobit.

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