Amazon AWS, also known as Amazon’s Web hosting platform, opened in Australia late last year. AWS offers a platform highly suited to hosting applications that may grow to need large, flexible hosting systems to support high bandwidth or peak needs. Additionally, they have a variety of options to support highly available service, including CDN service, Load Balancing, and DNS service amongst the over 30 options and products offered.
Surprisingly, Amazon already hosts a large amount of internet traffic – for example, NetFlix in the US which some pundits estimate accounts for about 40% of US internet traffic; and the huge and highly popular application DropBox has also used Amazon since early days.
Interestingly, AWS is one of the first true “cloud” products, and in my thinking, perhaps one of the only true cloud products. Cloud features available through AWS include:
- pay only for what you use – in both servers, cpu and bandwidth
- ability to add additional services (eg new “servers”, etc) on the fly within minutes, and to shut them down within minutes
- completely geographically separate regions to allow a highly reliable and redundant system
- load balancing
- sophisticated and flexible architecture
- strong, flexible firewalling
Amazon operates mostly under the radar, preferring to grow business quietly but systematically. This strategy appears to have been very successful; AWS is explicitly targetting enterprise customers and 2012 figures indicate that it is already a huge business, turning over some $2 billion annually according to educated industry guesses.
Concerns about Amazon in business context include that support is not always easily available, that the environment is complex to implement a site in, and that there have been occasional reliability issues. However, if you are looking for flexibility and power, you can’t go past Amazon’s AWS. Interesting case histories abound – from the paper that rented 200 servers for a weekend to do some high powered processing at a total cost of $200; to hosting the NetFlix business which reportedly turns over some 40% of overall internet traffic in the US. US Government also use Amazon extensively.
If you are building a large application, or one that may end up being large, Amazon offer some interesting synergies with AWS. For instance, it’s possible to spin up another 10 servers if you know your CEO is being interviewed on Today Tonight, run them for 6 hours, and shut them down again when the traffic dies down you can close down the extra 10 servers and you only pay for the time and bandwidth you used. They also have their own CDN (which offloads large volume load).
The downside is that the Amazon environment is not trivial to implement in; however, once the work is done, it will pay off in opening a lot of doors for the future.