Amazon is readying a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to compete with the likes of industry veterans Akamai Technologies and Limelight Networks. It's another step toward cloud computing, and it will be available later this year.
Amazon is no stranger to the cloud. The retailing behemoth launched its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) in 2006. EC2 is a Web service that hosts business software applications. Then Red Hat tapped into the cloud last November with a beta version of its Enterprise Linux operating system on EC2. Now Amazon is expanding the cloud.
On Thursday, Amazon announced a new service that will give developers and businesses the ability to serve data to customers worldwide, using low latency and high data-transfer rates. Using a global network, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels said the new service can deliver data stored in Amazon S3 to customers around the globe through local access.
"This is an important first step in expanding the cloud to give developers even more control over how their applications and their data are served by the cloud," Vogels said in his blog. "The service is currently in private beta, but we expect to have the service widely available before the end of the year."
Amazon's CDN does not yet have a name, but the company is promising businesses can distribute popular publicly readable content to customers all over the world. Amazon has four stated goals for the new service.
The first goal is to allow developers and businesses to get started with content delivery without any dollar or volume commitments.
The second goal is ease of use. Amazon said only one API is needed to get started with content delivery.
Amazon's third goal was to develop a CDN that works with Amazon S3 so businesses can feel secure about data storage. S3 is storage for the Internet that's designed to make Web-scale computing easier for developers.
Finally, Amazon wants to give businesses the ability to deliver content to the most appropriate locations.
"You will start by storing your content in an Amazon S3 bucket and then marking the content as publicly readable. Next you'll make a single API call to register the bucket," explained Jeff Barr, a senior evangelist for Amazon Web Services, on the Amazon Web Services Blog.
"The call will return a domain name that you'll use to refer to your content in your Web page or application. When clients request the object via the returned domain name, they'll be routed to the nearest edge location, for high-performance delivery."
Amazon Takes on the Titans
Web services is one of Amazon's "hidden assets," according to Phil Leigh, senior analyst at Inside Digital Media. Most people think of Amazon as a place to buy books and other merchandise, he said, but over the last 10 years Amazon has built up a robust infrastructure of Web capabilities for hosting and delivering Web content.
The question is, can Amazon compete with entrenched players like Akamai, Limelight and CDNetworks? Those three players make up about 79 percent of the U.S. market revenue per year, according to Tier1 Research. The firm predicts the market will reach $1.3 billion in 2008.
"Amazon can compete with the likes of Akamai and Limelight, particularly among small businesses. If you want to take advantage of Amazon's Web services, you just use your credit card. People are comfortable with that," Leigh said. "Amazon's biggest challenge is getting people to understand what it is they are offering. There is this fixed idea that Amazon is a seller of merchandise. But I think this is an image that Amazon is going to overcome."