Biggest technology news nobody is talking about from 2006

I am amazed at how little buzz two Amazon web services have generated since launghing in 2006. Amazon S3 and Amazon EC2 are groundbreaking services in my opinion.

A few years ago, Amazon did something very smart. As they discovered that they needed highly scalable and reliable platform components that they couldn’t buy, they decided to build them in a modular way such that they could then profit from these platform pieces by selling them to others. I have read that Amazon’s CEO describes Amazon as a software services company. I would guess that most people equate Amazon to an online Barnes & Noble done right. However, I think Amazon will outgrow that image over time with what they are now doing. Right now, Amazon is my favorite internet company with Yahoo and Google coming in a very distant second.

Amazon S3 allows you to store gigabytes or even terrabytes of data for pennies a month ($0.15/gigabyte to be exact) in a highly scalable and reliable environment. If you need to serve that content up to someone over the web, it only costs $0.20/gigabyte of data transfer. The product is sooo easy to use, and those prices are sooo low, it becomes a no-brainer to use S3 to store anything that takes up any space. People are dumping audio, video, images, mail, backups, and many other things on S3, and having great success.

Amazon EC2 makes the typical small business IT infrastructure almost obsolete. It allows you to “instantiate” servers in 2-3 minutes time. Suppose I have a website with traffic that has outgrown the single-server setup. I can go to EC2 and set up a load-balancer, multiple web servers, a database server, and multiple utility servers for $450/month. The time it takes to do this is very small, and the ongoing costs are very small. Once again, I only pay $0.20/gigagbyte of bandwidth consumed. The ease of use and low price just blow everything else out there away.

The bottom line is that Amazon with S3 and EC2 are making it so small and medium sized companies can have big-company style infrastructure for a VERY affordable price. Yes, people are talking about these services more and more. However, they are not getting publicized nearly enough for what they really are. If Google had released these services, it would be all anyone could talk about. But, since it wasn’t Google, they still continue to fly under the radar (relatively speaking), and that’s too bad IMHO.

A few good links:
Amazon Web Services Blog
Some sites using Amazon’s web services


2 comments so far

  1. Alex Kerr on

    Hi Sean,
    I’m as enthusiastic as you are about the potential for EC2, but as a developer actively investigating using it for our services, I’d say it’s currently not quite as easy to get into as you make out. Getting one server/instance up and running is fine and dandy, but currently there is a real lack of info on how to scale that properly – there seems to be little to no public info on how to load balance the platform, and connect it to a DNS (i.e. to a domain name), especially considering the dynamic IPs of instances, and equally important how to ensure persistence of data given everything is lost when an instance shuts down (which one has to cater for happening unexpectedly) – some sort of connection between your EC2 hosted database and S3, being the obvious answer. I’m not saying these things can’t be done, and done well, on EC2, just that there is a great need for practical how-to’s right now, or for Amazon to make these features standard and easy to use on the platform. If you have any info to share on this subject, that would be very helpful đŸ™‚


  2. Sean Roylance on

    Alex, thanks for your comments.

    Of Amazons offerings, EC2 is definitely the hardest that I’ve tried to use. S3 and SQS are quite simple.

    Concerning backup solutions, S3 is the direction we were headed. Now, pending the answers to a few questions, we will be using Infinidisk (which of course uses S3).

    We have he same issues with EC2 and are working on those right now. I will see if I can post our solutions to them over time. Now that Amazon is allowing people to contribute their own AMIs, I want to contribute ours for some of the things you mention. I will also be looking for solutions that others have come up with.

    Sorry that isn’t a lot of good answers now, but hopefully I and others can provide more eventually.

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