Amazon.com as an Infrastructure Platform?

 
 
By Ryan Naraine  |  Posted 2004-11-15
 
 
 
Amazon.com has quietly started testing a back-end message queuing interface for distributed applications, a move that suggests a bold push into the middleware services market.

With the beta launch of the Amazon SQS (Simple Queue Service), the Seattle-based firm on Monday announced plans to sell a third-party service to handle message buffering between distributed application components.

During the beta, which is free for registered developers, the Amazon SQS will work as a transitory storage for relatively small messages. Amazon.com said a single entry placed in a queue cannot be larger than 4 KB in size and cannot be left in the queue for more than 30 days.

Users will be limited to storing as many as 4,000 queue entries at a time in all queues created by the same subscription ID.

Amazon.com said it plans to charge a fee for the service once it is officially released, but no details on pricing were provided.

As the first non-e-commerce product line coming out of the Amazon Web Services initiative launched last October, Amazons SQS signals a growing trend among major Web players to become infrastructure platforms themselves.

Amazon.com declined to discuss the move into the middleware market. "We typically dont discuss products that are in beta and we wont speculate on future strategic plans," a company spokesman told eWEEK.com.

But industry watchers see Amazon.coms move as an attempt to tap into a potentially lucrative market, especially among SMBs (small to midsized businesses).

Microsoft Corp., with its MSMQ (Microsoft Message Queuing) technology, and IBM, with WebSphere MQ, offer message queuing services across different platforms as part of a bigger software product.

With Amazon.coms SQS, a business can pay a fee and get a message management system that is stored in a queue at Amazon.com.

Sean Mitchell, an IT consultant based in Ontario, said Amazon.coms expertise in managing a large-scale computing infrastructure that uses the queue service would help in the marketing of the product.

"This could be really useful, and theres money to be made here," he said. "With Microsoft and IBM, you get the service as part of software, but the cost of deploying and maintaining it can be prohibitive."

"Amazon is providing the protocol and the infrastructure, so for smaller IT shops, there could be a market," Mitchell said.

"Lets say you have a bunch of travel agencies who want an application to pool their blocks of fares. They dont want to have to worry about setting up and maintaining servers. They can hire a developer to build an application running in their offices that uses Amazons system to communicate between all the nodes. Amazon handles the protocols, infrastructure and hosting and collects a fee for it," Mitchell added.

Robert McLaws, president of Interscape Technologies, an independent software partner of Microsoft, said he thinks it would be a tough sell for Amazon.com, especially with the privacy and security implications of data storage on a third-party platform.

"I think the security question that comes with passing data to a third party is a showstopper hurdle," McLaws said.

McLaws said Microsofts coming Indigo platform will offer similar massage queuing technologies. "Indigo is the catch-all platform for communications on Windows. It wraps MSMQ into an easy-to-use API that doesnt cost any more than the license you probably already have," he said.

"I dont see why a company of any size developing for the .NET platform would want to pay for an Amazon service thats already available," he added.

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