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AWS CloudFront buffed up with new customization features

AWS CloudFront gets new CDN features that allow for mobile device detection and the ability to deliver content to a specific geographic location.

As more content is delivered from data centers to Web browsers in the new era of mobile apps, IT pros need utilities to make the browser experience as rich as possible.

That process is now easier for AWS users, thanks to a set of updates to the AWS CloudFront content delivery network.

Content delivery networks (CDNs) allow data from a centralized source to be delivered using compute resources closer to the target-edge device, usually a PC or mobile device with a Web browser. AWS provides a CDN as a service through CloudFront.

The updates to the AWS CloudFront CDN revealed last week include support for additional HTTP headers when files are passed from the data source -- called the origin server -- to CloudFront. This means organizations delivering content to Web browsers can customize more granularly than before. New possible customizations include mobile device detection and the ability to tailor delivered content to a given geographic location.

The browser is the new server in some ways.
Kurt LangleyCEO, Ekho

AWS CloudFront can also now be used to perform cross-origin resource sharing (CORS), in which Web assets, such as JavaScript and fonts, can be shared via multiple websites.

"This is all good news," said Kent Langley, CEO of Ekho Inc., a Web-based data analytics company based in San Rafael, California. "In time I expect we'll use most of it since we write complex client-side apps in JavaScript frameworks, and, in particular, make use of CORS already."

This update to AWS CloudFront will allow Ekho to push more applications to clients' devices from origin servers via CloudFront distributions, which has become a key component of any modern data center, according to Langley.

"The browser is the new server in some ways," Langley said. "[Client devices] will be a core part of the data center of the future -- distributed and decentralized"

Still, AWS users have choices about which CDN they use, and some prefer third-party vendors, such as Akamai Technologies Inc.

"We use Akamai primarily and only a little bit of CloudFront for some internal parts of our application, but have been moving more and more to Akamai," said Jim O'Neill, CIO for HubSpot Inc., a digital marketing software as a service company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"Akamai has a broader feature set, including CDN, but their security products are important to us as we host content on behalf of our customers and need to protect against attacks," O'Neill said. "CDN is just a small part of that."

Other third-party alternatives to CloudFront include CDNetworks, CloudFlare, EdgeCast Networks, and Limelight Networks.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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