Amazon, a pioneer in virtual storefront technology and electronic commerce services, today announced Amazon CloudFront, a web service for content delivery.
Since its first appearance online in 1995, Amazon has amassed an impressive collection of Information Technology (IT) infrastructure in order to operate and expand its service mix. Since 2002, Amazon has sold internet-only access to its excess IT infrastructure through their Amazon Web Services (AWS). By openly publishing the software access methods or APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) used by AWS, Amazon has turned a liability into a revenue generator.
With the introduction of Amazon CloudFront, they are once again allowing other companies to piggyback on their high performance IT investment without incurring upfront costs or restrictive contracts. According to the company, Amazon CloudFront delivers “…static and streaming content using a global network of edge locations. Requests for your objects are automatically routed to the nearest edge location, so content is delivered with the best possible performance.” The service works with their Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), which provides a pay-as-you-go storage model for third party digital assets. The “edge locations” mentioned are geographically dispersed copies located on servers sprinkled all over the world, which reduces the load on any one server and increases the overall performance, so your favorite TV show streams seamlessly and without hiccups or interruption to your local web browser.
As in the past, Amazon is challenging existing business models but, this time, it’s a new school business, that of CDNs or Content Distribution Networks. CDNs are companies that provide high speed, low latency delivery of streaming rich media content on public and private networks, including the internet. With well over a dozen companies offering CDN services, including old hand telco AT&T, and dotcom bubble survivors Akamai, CacheFly and Level 3, Amazon has some strong competition.
However, their utility payment model, coupled with minimal restrictions make for a compelling sell. “Like other Amazon Web Services, there are no contracts or monthly commitments for using Amazon CloudFront – you pay only for as much or as little content as you actually deliver through the service.”
Amazon CloudFront carries all the same disincentives that many other “cloud” services present; lack of interoperability, questions about security, murky Service Level Agreements (SLAs), a general lack of in–depth administration and performance metrics tools, along with a requirement for a fairly high level of technical competence. This service is not for the WYSIWYG crowd. However, given those drawbacks, Amazon CloudFront is a welcome addition to the CDN marketplace.