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A map of locations in which Cloudflare has equipment, with over 125 separate data centers represented worldwide. (Cloudflare Image)

Cloudflare is ready to take the wraps of a new service designed for developers creating Internet-of-Things apps that want to capitalize on the proximity benefits provided by edge computing.

Cloudflare Workers was first introduced last September, and Cloudflare is expected to announce Tuesday that it is now generally available for developers to check out. The new service runs on hardware that Cloudflare has installed in more than 125 data centers around the world to power its anti-DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack service, and it allows developers to write JavaScript applications through the Service Worker API that will run much closer to their users than might otherwise be possible with standard cloud services.

Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince (Cloudflare Photo)

“For quite some time, we have understood that there is real power in deploying applications that ran incredibly close to where users are on the internet,” said Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince in an interview with GeekWire last week. Cloudflare Workers comes out of last year’s acqui-hire of the Sandstorm team, which developed a unique way to allow developers to securely share hardware resources with other developers that doesn’t require the computing horsepower needed to run virtual machines or containers, he said.

About 1,000 users have been playing with Cloudflare Workers since the company opened the service up to a broader beta program in January following the September announcement. “I’ve been surprised by how dramatically different all of the applications people have bult are, it doesn’t feel like there is a bound to them yet,” Prince said.

The benefits of edge computing are just starting to make their way into the world, although lots of folks have been talking about it for a while. It’s a recognition of the fact that as connected devices spread throughout the world, it quickly makes more sense to execute a lot of the code running those devices as physically close to them as possible, as waiting for instructions from a remote cloud data center won’t always cut it for real-time IoT devices.

The self-driving car is the ubiquitous example cited by edge computing advocates, but developers using Cloudflare Workers have built ad-blocker blockers that detect and route around sites that restrict content to people using ad blockers, applications that help find and brick stolen mobile devices, and because it’s 2018, a bitcoin arbitrage app.

“If you give people and developers tools and the opportunity to deploy them, and make it incredibly easy, that’s something people will find new uses for that you would have never imagined,” Prince said.

Cloudflare is charging developers $0.50 for every 1 million tasks used by their applications, with a $5 monthly minimum. It’s not clear exactly how many tasks the average Cloudflare Workers application will use, but Prince said that developers in the beta program generated “billions” of tasks.

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