Putting the “real” in real-time data


By Felix Speulman

Imagine a platform that sees no traffic at all, and then, all of a sudden, three million connections per second are coming in for fifteen minutes, after which the traffic drops to almost zero. It looks just like a DDoS attack but isn’t. It’s the voting traffic for the Eurovision Song Contest. The small, young company behind the platform, Once.net, could not have asked for a better example to showcase its capabilities.

“We’ve developed a data platform built for hyperscale security and real-time data,” says CTO and co-founder Jim de Beer. “It makes application and platform development 90 percent easier so engineers can focus on important things. Without complex installations, with good experiences for end users, and the possibility to plug in AI capabilities without any problems.”

Once.net can make this happen on a large scale because it taps into Cloudflare’s Connectivity Cloud. “Our product is very much intertwined with their security layer. As a result, we take care of our customers’ security concerns.”

It has taken five years of hard work to develop their solution, called Based.io, where all data processing happens. “If you want real-time data, you need a whole engineering team. If you want to make it work at scale, it’s incredibly complicated. We’re trying to fix data on a very large scale. It’s not simple, but the combination with Cloudflare makes it easy to start with almost nothing and scale to something infinitely large. Both for the delivery of your assets and the data. And everything in real-time.” According to de Beer, this means data updates in under 300 milliseconds without requiring a page or application refresh.

The Eurovision Song Contest voting platform is a complicated use case. The votes must be secure, and the platform must immediately identify whether traffic is a bot or fake, but also if a stolen credit card or a concentration of payments from one place is involved. “We can tell if something illegal is happening, like a country trying to have a little more influence on the voting than you would like. We can update the web application firewall in two seconds, and that’s unique. We can kick an IP address off the network globally and instantly. When you have fifteen minutes during which everyone is voting, every second counts.”

“The reason this is a very interesting case for our technology is that you’re dealing with millions of people worldwide, the Beer says. “Our platform is all about real-time data – it has relevance for everything we do online. A live event should not go down. But neither should a banking app. All data should be processed in real-time. For almost everything on the Internet, you want the same resilience, security, and timeliness as with the Eurovision event. That’s what we want to achieve with our product.”

Dirk-Jan van Helmond, director of Solutions Engineering for EMEA at Cloudflare, explains that with Based.io, Jim de Beer is defining a new real-time baseline for the Internet. “Many existing applications are not adequate anymore in the real-time era. Those applications use classic technology and may give the illusion of real-time, but it’s not. I think a lot of companies have use cases for this they don’t even understand yet.”

Snappy applications and, especially, timely data are significant drivers of successful products. “A slight difference in ease of use is a massive difference to the potential success of your application,” says de Beer. “Almost all successful applications are owned by large companies that can afford thousands of engineers. As a startup, it is challenging to make something good because the standards are so high.”

“Based.io is built for real-time data from the ground up. It would be a perfect solution for everything on the internet. Up till now, real-time data has been complicated for developers in general. Why do things function so poorly? Because they are complicated to engineer. It just needs to be easier. Our solution is going to make for a much better Internet.”

Jim de Beer presented the roadmaps of Once.net and Based.io at CIODAY on November 21. In addition, conducted a live demo involving the attendees with the assistance of Cloudflare.