Amazon Selling Simple Storage Service

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The online retailer has added a new service for users: a low-cost virtual closet where people can put in and take out their data online, and pay for just what they store and transfer.

Will the cost and functionality of Amazon S3 convince you to make it part of your application development? What should Amazon do to improve the minimal feature set, if anything, to S3? Let us know at SyndicationPro.

Amazon’s Digital Services division released the Simple Storage Service (S3), offering people access to Amazon’s storage network. The service supports HTTP as the default download protocol, but also includes a BitTorrent protocol interface for moving really big files at a lower cost.

The service uses a simple pricing structure: $0.15 per GB-Month of storage used, and $0.20 per GB of data transferred. Amazon said that users can store an unlimited number of data objects ranging up to 5GB in size, roughly equal to a modern-day DVD. That would allow businesses that backup information to DVD to store a copy of it with Amazon.

Security functionality in Simple Storage Service verifies the authentication process to keep out unauthorized users. Amazon noted that the objects stored with the service can be made public or private. It also looks like they support access control lists, since various rights can be assigned to specific users.

For the tinkerers on the Internet, the service “uses standards-based REST and SOAP interfaces” that can work with a developer’s preferred toolkit.

Amazon touted several points besides the simplicity of the design of S3. Ultimately, the company sees S3 as a fast, inexpensive, scalable solution, with an availability rate of 99.99 percent. They also followed several principles of distributed system design, which they detail on the S3 page.

The service is already getting a workout from some areas. BusinessWeek blogger Rob Hof posted about one user group, “a UC Berkeley team running NASA’s Stardust@Home project that involves 60,000 images to 100,000 volunteers worldwide so they can scan them for comet dust.”

TechCrunch blogger Mike Arrington thinks Amazon just stole the thunder from the chatter about Google’s oft-discussed GDrive, as he posted comments from Amazon about the service:

Until now, a sophisticated and scalable data storage infrastructure like Amazon’s has been beyond the reach of small developers. Amazon S3 enables any developer to leverage Amazon’s own benefits of massive scale with no up-front investment or performance compromises. Developers are now free to innovate knowing that no matter how successful their businesses become, it will be inexpensive and simple to ensure their data is quickly accessible, always available, and secure.

One likely difference between S3 and GDrive, plus whatever competing efforts may arrive from Microsoft or Yahoo, is cost. The major search portals may have to offer similar services for free, and that is assuming they take a standards-based approach to developing a storage service.

Amazon has significant brand recognition itself, and has steadily built up an array of web services for developers. The most notable one before S3 was their opening of the Alexa search database to developers in December 2005.

Both Hof and Arrington perceive Amazon’s move here as an important one for the Internet; when it comes to online storage and how new software projects may use the service, Amazon could be the most important web service to debut to date.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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