Cloudflare acquires Linc to automate web app deployment

Cloudflare today acquired Linc, an automation platform to help frontend developers collaborate and build apps, for an undisclosed amount. Cloudflare says it’ll accelerate the development of its its frontend JAMStack hosting platform, Pages, to enable “richer” and “more powerful” full-stack applications.
A major challenge in frontend web development is moving from a static site — i.e., a directory of HTML, JS, and CSS files — to a fully-featured app. While companies benefit from the flexibility of being able to render everything on-demand, they increase their maintenance cost because they now have servers they need to keep running. Moreover, unless they’re already operating at a global scale, they’ll often see worse end-user performance as requests are served from one or a few of locations worldwide.
Linc and Cloudflare’s solution is the Frontend Application Bundle (FAB), a deployment artefact that supports a range of server-side needs including static sites, apps with API routes, cloud functions, and server-side streaming rendering. A compiler generates a FAB ZIP file that has two components: a server file that acts as a server-side entry point and an assets directory that stores the HTML, CSS, JS, images, and fonts that are sent to the client. When a FAB is deployed, it’s often split into these component parts and deployed separately. Assets are sent to a low-cost object storage platform with a content deliver network in front of it, and the server component is sent to dedicated serverless hosting.
Pages works with JAMstack — which stands for JavaScript, APIs, and Markup — to separate frontend pages and UI from backend apps and databases. It integrates with GitHub repositories and competes directly with Netlify or Vercel, two cloud hosting companies that let companies build and deploy sites using JAMstack frameworks.
“Linc’s goal was to give frontend developers the best tooling to build and refine their apps, regardless of which hosting they were using,” Linc CTO Glen Maddern wrote in a blog post. “But we started to notice an important trend —  if a team had a free choice for where to host their frontend, they inevitably chose [Cloudflare]. In some cases, for a period, teams even used Linc to deploy a FAB … alongside their existing hosting to demonstrate the performance improvement before migrating permanently.”
In the near future, Maddern, who’s joined Cloudflare, says that Linc’s team will work on expanding Pages to cover “the full spectrum” of apps. Moreover, he says it’ll work toward the broader goal of enabling customers to “fully embrace” edge-rendering and make global serverless hosting “more powerful and accessible.”
Cloudflare’s acquisition of Linc comes after the company purchased S2 Systems Corporation, a Seattle-area startup developing a remote browser isolation solution. It’s Cloudflare’s first purchase of 2020.

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