Cloudflare just made two acquisitions that reveal its plans for serverless computing

Cloudflare bolstered its serverless computing strategy with two acquisitions Friday that highlight its plans for competing with Big Cloud.

Cloudflare just made two acquisitions that reveal its plans for serverless computing
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons user HaeB/cc 4.0)

When trying to break into a market dominated by giants, it doesn't make much sense to compete directly with their strengths. As Cloudflare has added infrastructure services to its security and networking base over the several years, it has charted its own course.

Fresh evidence of that approach arrived this week during one of Cloudflare's traditional week-long blizzards of product launches and news updates. On Friday, it acquired two British developer-tools startups that complement its focus on serverless computing.

First was PartyKit, which had raised $2.5 million in funding to build out its open-source platform for real-time serverless app development. PartyKit's platform service was designed to help serverless developers build fast-twitch stateful collaboration apps without the huge development teams that created Google Docs, Slack, or Fortnite.

One problem with traditional serverless apps built around functions and events is they were designed to be stateless, meaning that unless they are connected to a database, they don't retain any memory of what they just did before moving on to the next job. But stateful applications can accomplish a lot more, especially when it comes to real-time collaboration apps that have to know what multiple people are doing at any given time.

PartyKit expands Cloudflare's work on Durable Objects, a stateful serverless development tool, by "[making] them more accessible to developers by exposing them through familiar components.," it said in a blog post.

It also acquired Baselime, which had raised a little over $2 million in funding to add observability to serverless apps. Observability needs no introduction at this point (but just in case), and it is quickly becoming an important part of applications running on cloud services.

Baselime's observability product is similar to others on the market, but targeted at developers who want to build the pillars of observability into their apps from the start. Cloudflare plans to incorporate Baselime into its Workers serverless development platform so that apps built with those tools have observability by default.

The Big Three all offer serverless development platforms to their cloud customers, but all appear to have much larger businesses serving traditional units of enterprise computing, such as virtual machines and containers. And right now, they are obsessed with building AI tools and services that they believe will grow faster than boring old compute.

Cloudflare isn't ignoring the AI boom, announcing the general availability of its Worker AI serverless GPU service and an integration with Hugging Face that will let customers deploy its models on Worker AI. But by virtue of slowly building its way into cloud infrastructure services, it has the luxury of doing things differently than the companies that defined the first decade of cloud computing.

There's an elegance to serverless computing that has captivated developers for years but still hasn't transformed the way most corporate applications are built. Still, somebody is going to figure out the right formula that takes serverless computing into the enterprise mainstream, and Cloudflare seems as well positioned as anyone to make it happen.

(This post originally appeared in the Runtime newsletter on April 6th, sign up here to get more enterprise tech news three times a week.)

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