back to article Inside Amazon's web services

In 2006, Amazon.com launched several web services aimed at developers: the Simple Storage Service (S3) offering unlimited internet storage, the Simple Queue Service for reliable message delivery, and the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) which lets developer create and manage virtual server instances programmatically. They are …

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If only every site was like Amazon

Every time that I run into a badly designed, frustrating website <cough> ...Bell Canada... </cough> I ask myself "Why don't they just contract this out to Amazon.com?"

I can't recall a time when it ever took more than a minute or two to find and purchase an item at Amazon. Why does it take a half hour at most other sites?

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RE: If Only...

You're obviously not making the same search queries that I am. Many times I will type in a search query, and Amazon will display a list of "matches". The problem is, the title I searched for is not on many of those "matches". In fact, when I click on the "match" and then do a text search of the page, the text is only found in my "Recent searches" list.

On another note, let's hope that these web services are more reliable than Amazon ordering and delivery. Every year at Christmas, like someone with Alzheimer's, I order from Amazon. And every year, there are problems. These problems are often products not arriving on time, despite clear indications from Amazon that they will. For example, if it says that to guarantee delivery by December 23 to order by December 22, and I order on December 19 with second-day delivery, why does the product not arrive until December 27?

Another problem area in my experience is inventory control. On more than one occasion I have placed an order (in stock - usually ships in 1 to 2 days), I will place the order only to receive an email saying that the order is backordered. Other times I have had it go from 1-2 days on the product detail screen to 6-8 weeks during checkout.

Yet another problem I've had is last year when I placed an order in September. I purchased their "Prime" service ($79 for one year, and all Prime-eligible shipments are shipped via 2-day shipping for free). Shortly after that, I placed an order for a couple DVDs and a DVD that was backordered (it said it on the product detail screen, so I knew what to expect). On the checkout screen, I selected to ship my products as they become available, which is the default for Prime members (NOT to group the products together). I got an email the next day saying that my entire order would be delayed until the backordered DVD become available.

What's the point of this rant? Simple this: what you see when you go to amazon.com is only part of the Amazon giant. And while that front-end may work well for the most part, there's a lot that goes on in the back-end that doesn't work so well. And to expect that their web services would be any different is foolish.

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Austria, Australia (another back end rant)

While it may not be a web issue, I do think regularly mailing items to Austria instead of Australia suggests they should put a similar level attention on their physical processes. OK, the names are similar looking. But Amazon apparently have a high quality SoA that can tell the difference and should be able to prevent silly mistakes like sending my books to the wrong continent.

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Anonymous Coward

I thought you said cheap?

I must be missing something in the mathematics... Storage costs $0.15/Gb plus $0.20/Gb in transfer costs. So by my reckoning, to copy say 500Gb to them and read it back once will cost me $0.55 x 500. Which is approximately what a 500Gb SATA II drive will cost. And if I access it a second time or keep it more than a month then I'm paying even more... Now granted there's no backup or the cost of a PC or NAS frontend figured in my costs yet but it seems to me that this isn't all that great a deal.

E.

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Is it cheap?

> I must be missing something in the mathematics... Storage

> costs $0.15/Gb plus $0.20/Gb in transfer costs. So by my

> reckoning, to copy say 500Gb to them and read it back

> once will cost me $0.55 x 500. Which is approximately

> what a 500Gb SATA II drive will cost.

Hardly the same thing. No data transfer costs for the local hard drive, for starters.

Amazon is cheap relative to the competition. For example ibackup.com sells online backup space from $1.00 per GB (Economy plan). No additional cost for data transfer, but you have to pay whether or not you actually use the space. Amazon is pay-as-you-go.

A cheap hosting provider might get you online space for less, but bear in mind that S3 is scalable, decentralized, authenticated, and fault-tolerant.

Photo site Smugmug moved part of its online storage to S3 and said it was cheaper than the drives in its own data center.

I spoke to a couple of ISPs at a recent conference, who wanted to provide similar services to their customers. They told me that Amazon's pricing is hard for them to match.

Tim

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Anonymous Coward

S3 - EC2 bandwidth is free

Data transfer within Amazon's domain - eg from S3 to EC2 - is free. They only charge with data that goes outside their data centres onto that interweb thingy people keep banging on about. Indeed, EC2 doesn't have any file storage. You gotta use S3 (or roll your own solution)

Regardless of how many 500Gb drives have failed, Amazon probably won't lose my data. This is nice, having lost a bunch of Lacies in my time.

If I have a 500GB drive at home at the end of a DSL line, and try and pull data from it over the internet, methinks this will start getting expensive, especially if I suddenly have 000's of users.

S3 is not personal storage in the way a 500Gb drive is. It's been used for everything from database backend for wikis to enterprise backup; file sizes from kb to TB.

I think it's pretty cool, and I think it's pretty cheap compared to the cost of enterprise storage and the operational cost around that.

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