Cloudflare Boosts Performance and Stability for Its Millions of Websites with NGINX

John Graham-Cumming, programmer at Cloudflare, explains the company’s CDN and security products succinctly: “We’re the company you don’t realize you’re using when you browse the web. If you go to one of over 4 million popular websites, you actually come to our web servers around the world, and we make them more secure and faster.”

Business Challenge

As the CDN for more than 4 million websites, Cloudflare is an essential provider for accessing businesses gaining access to customers around the globe. Companies rely on Cloudflare to weather sudden bursts in user activity, web-based security issues, and even the dreaded DDoS attack. As such, Cloudflare’s 24/7 cloud-based services cannot go offline, and must accommodate huge amounts of secure traffic in a synchronized, global fashion.

Additionally, routing traffic for customers requires a number of duties be performed at once: HTTP routing, SSL routing, and content caching all must be performed by the same systems, as hardware costs must be minimized. Any solution for building out a global CDN must be lightweight, reliable, and highly performant so as to take full advantage of available hardware. Providing cloud-based services means working in a multi-user environment, and solutions must be able to make the most of their provided hardware, even when other services are running.


Cloudflare would not exist without F5 NGINX. 

“NGINX is core to what Cloudflare does. It is part of the foundational pieces of software we use. There’s a very small list of things that are essential to what we do, and NGINX is one of them,” says Graham-Cumming.

He continues: “We chose NGINX primarily for the performance. That means there are multiple different websites running through the same hardware, so we need high performance. We use NGINX for all of the web serving that we do. We use it as a reverse proxy on thousands of machines around the world.”

“We’re running 4 million websites globally, and some of those are very major. We’re taking the traffic load for all of those through NGINX, and in fact, in our machines we run three different instances of NGINX. We use one for caching, one for SSL, and one for normal HTTP,” Graham-Cumming explains.

Despite intense performance and hardware optimization demands, Graham-Cumming notes that three instances of NGINX on the same machine are still able to handle the high demands of their customers’ traffic.


Delivers performance and stability for global content delivery

Even with global demand, sudden spikes, and intense security concerns at every turn, NGINX remains at the core of Cloudflare’s infrastructure, enabling their business to meet the intense demands for secure worldwide web content distribution.

Cloudflare logo
  • High performance NGINX technologies enable multiple different websites to run through the same hardware
  • Cloudflare uses NGINX for its web serving and as a reverse proxy on thousands of machines around the world
  • Three NGINX instances on the same machine can handle the high demands of Cloudflare’s customers’ traffic

  • As an essential provider of content delivery network (CDN) services for the internet, Cloudflare cannot go offline
  • Must accommodate huge amounts of traffic routing performed by the same systems to minimize hardware costs
  • App delivery services for a global CDN must be lightweight, reliable, and highly performant