Amazon Puts out the Storage Infrastructure Welcome Mat

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has just released a simple API that can be used to store data in, and retrieve it from, the company's own storage infrastructure.

Unveiled today at SD West, Amazon S3 is one of those slap-your-forehead releases. I mean, who better than Amazon--an online retailer who's very existence depends on data storage that is fast, scaleable, and reliable-to-the-nth-degree--to offer Web-based data storage.

''Companies like Amazon can afford to put years of effort and resources into developing management software that can be smart about running on cheap hardware and tolerating failures and that sort of thing,'' says AWS VP of product management and developer relations Adam Selipsky. ''And they can afford to spend millions to buy lots of that hardware so that they get the benefits of scale and reliability. Needless to say, most developers don’t have that kind of time or money.''

Amazon S3 was intentionally designed with a simple feature set, Selipsky says, so that it will work well with any type of application. Among those on the short list of S3 beta users are the University of California at Berkeley's Stardust@Home team, which is using Amazon S3 to store and deliver 60,000 images collected in its ''aerogel'' experiment to 100,000 volunteers, who scan the images looking for dust particles from Comet Wild2; and the castingWords podcast transcription service, which uses S3 to store and retrieve original audio files and the transcribed texts.

S3 users are charged 15 cents per gigabyte of data stored, and 20 cents per gigabyte of data transferred. There is no minimum fee, and users pay only for what they consume.

''This is Amazon again extending its portfolio by adding services for selling infrastructure capabilities,'' says ZapThink senior analyst Ron Schmelzer. ''They are basically saying, we’ve built this platform over the past 10 years to provide highly reliable and scalable delivery of electronic assets. And, hey, we can monetize it by providing access to developers.''

Amazon isn't the only one thinking along these lines. It has been reported that Google is interested in developing a similar product. Schmelzer sees the S3 release as part of an overall trend among the major Web app providers--Google, eBay, Amazon, MSN, and Yahoo--to reach beyond their original business models.

''They're all expanding their footprints,'' he says. ''MSN isn't just an ISP; Google isn't just a search company; eBay is more than an online auction house; and Yahoo is more than an online directory.''

S3 also represents yet another change in the way people are building applications. The infrastructure demands of complex apps aren't going away, but, by allowing developers to leverage powerful, existing infrastructure capabilities, companies like Amazon are making it possible to do more with less.

Amazon S3 is available today at http://aws.amazon.com/s3.

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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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