Amazon Takes Aim at Hosted Storage

Diversifies into hosted service priced at 15 cents per Gbyte per month

March 14, 2006

3 Min Read
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Amazon, better known for books than bytes, today is unveiling a new storage service for firms struggling to develop applications with limited IT resources.

S3, which stands for Simple Storage Service, is essentially a Web services interface to Amazon's own back-end storage. Amazon execs tell Byte and Switch that S3 can host a range of applications, from file backup services to ring tones.

"This is intended to be very flexible to support any application a developer might build," says Adam Selipsky, Amazon's vice president of product management, adding that there is no limit to the amount of storage to which users can gain access.

The idea is that firms can now develop and employ applications on Amazon's systems via the Internet, removing the need to buy their own storage hardware. Selipsky tells Byte and Switch that users will be charged, on a monthly basis, 15 cents per Gbyte of data stored and 20 cents for each Gbyte moved on or off Amazon's systems.

Don Alvarez, development manager at, which develops storyboard software for the movie industry, is already using the service. The exec tells Byte and Switch that S3 helped him dodge a storage hardware bullet. "Building the data center storage on our own would have been well in excess of $1 per Gbyte," he says.A number of vendors, such as Global Data Vault, already offer online data storage, but Alvarez felt that these were never a realistic option for his firm. "If you look at conventional online data storage products, they are typically coming in around $6 to $10 per Gbyte per month," he explains. "I think that Amazon is being very aggressive on pricing, and that is fantastic." By contrast, GDV charges $9 a month for up to 300 Mbytes and $29 for up to 2 Gbytes.

At the moment, has less than 100 Gbytes of data stored on S3, although Alvarez expects this to grow significantly by the end of this year. "I would certainly see having easily hundreds of Gbytes or Tbytes stored on S3. In my view, what this has done is changed the landscape of how enterprises store large quantities of data."

Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink, agrees, predicting that other big-name enterprises could follow Amazon's lead, opening up their own back-end storage systems. "It's possible that Google could get into this market, for sure, even Yahoo, MSN, or some of the telecom providers," he says.

Google, of course, is said to be planning its own hosted storage service, dubbed GDrive. But, whereas the closely guarded GDrive project appears to be more of a consumer play, Amazon's offering is clearly aimed at the enterprise.

Nonetheless, Amazon, like Google, is giving little away about its own back-end storage systems, despite rumors that the retailer runs one of the world's largest databases. Selipsky would only confirm that the vendor relies on commodity hardware in a Linux-based environment, adding that, if necessary, this could be shifted to another operating platform.Dave Barth, Amazon's S3 product manager, was, however, more forthcoming on the nuts and bolts of S3, explaining that the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Representational State Transfer (REST) standards are used to connect users with back-end storage.

Security, according to Barth, is provided via the Hashed Message Authentication Code (HMAC), which encrypts application data.

James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)

  • Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO)

  • ZapThink LLC

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