Amazon Launches Web Storage Service

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Looking to help programmers house large amounts of data for their Web development projects, Amazon Web Services today rolled out a new storage service, Amazon S3.

Amazon is the latest dot-com giant to see dollars in online storage. Google is also considering launching an online storage service, and the search giant has other ambitions in data management. Yahoo, MSN and AOL are also in varying stages of offering consumer-oriented online storage services.

But Amazon’s offering is the most ambitious yet, aimed squarely at enterprises.

“Amazon is trying to monetize some of their development efforts designed for one area as an entirely new revenue stream,” said Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. “They, like other successful internet companies, recognized that they had to solve the problem of big, cheap, super-scale storage because traditional methodologies didn’t work for them. If you can sell books and sneakers, why not capacity? They have it mastered, so why not let others use it?”

“This kind of stuff isn’t an anomaly,” said Duplessie. “It will keep happening. Traditional vendors will be forced to join the new way of doing things or go the way of the dodo, the VHS tape, the walkman, the turntable, etc. Pretty soon we’ll have ‘monolithic disk subsystem’ on that list.”

Amazon S3, which stands for “simple storage service,” is an Internet-based storage option that frees Web builders from worrying about where they are going to store data as they work on projects that need to scale.

For example, a developer may be building an e-commerce site for a business that needs to handle transactions during a busy commerce season. Amazon S3 could be the answer.

The developer could use S3 as his or her storage infrastructure during the creation of the project. There is no additional hardware involved, so it costs less than using traditional storage arrays.

The software includes a Web services application programming interface (API) that can be used to store and retrieve any amount of data from anywhere on the Internet.

The interfaces, based on REST and SOAP Web services, allow developers access to the same storage infrastructure Amazon uses to run its own Web sites.

Features of S3 include the ability to write, read and delete objects containing 1 byte to 5 gigabytes of data each. The number of files that can be stored is unlimited, and each one is stored and retrieved with an assigned key.

In true policy-based fashion, files can be made private or public, and rights can be assigned to specific users.

S3 charges developers for what they consume at a rate of 15 cents per gigabyte of storage per month and 20 cents per gigabyte of data transferred.

“The smartest thing they said was that it isn’t about storing stuff — it’s about getting value back out of the stuff you store, and with that I couldn’t agree with more,” said Duplessie. “Now, will this be successful? Who knows? At $150 per TB for capacity, it’s interesting but not earth-shattering. Plus, they talk about a charge of $200 per TB for ‘data transferred.’ What the heck does that mean? If it costs me that much to move data (i.e., use it) then this will fail, so I’m hoping I’m missing something.”

Those interested may procure S3 here.

While most of the world knows Amazon for its powerful e-commerce brand, the Seattle-based company created a different jungle in 2002: the Amazon Web Services platform, which provides technology and product data from Amazon to help developers build their own applications.

More than 150,000 developers have signed up to use Amazon Web Services to build anything from podcast transcription services to marketplaces for Web site advertising space. Developers make money by selling the applications they build, or charging for the services they offer.

Podcast transcription service provider CastingWords is already using Amazon S3.

The company transcribes audio files into text at a rate of 42 per minute of audio and uses Amazon S3 to store and retrieve the audio files and the texts.

In another scenario, Amazon said, a maker of software for the motion picture industry, is using Amazon S3 to store and share digital storyboard elements with its customers around the world.

Article courtesy of, with additional reporting by Paul Shread of Enterprise Storage Forum.

Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton is an Enterprise Storage Forum contributor and a senior writer for covering IT leadership, the CIO role, and digital transformation.

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