Amazon Upgrades Web Services Capabilities

The online retailer enhances Web services support for developers, but competition from Google is imminent.

Amazon is adding new functionality to its Amazon Web services offerings, but a prominent industry watcher says the company may face increasing competition from Google.

Amazon Web Services, an affiliate of, on March 27 launched its "Elastic IP" addresses offering and the ability to launch compute instances in multiple Availability Zones, two new features that enable Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) developers to build more powerful and fault-resilient applications in the cloud, the company said.

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Meanwhile, in blog posts March 29 and 30, Dave Winer, a prominent Web 2.0 player, RSS pioneer and founder of Userland Software, said he expects Google to directly take on Amazon Web Services.

In the announcement, Amazon officials said the new capabilities enable developers to provide greater reliability and redundancy for all of their applications, including hosting Web sites. These two features were among the top requests of developers using Amazon EC2, said Peter DeSantis, general manager of Amazon EC2. Amazon EC2 is an infrastructure service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud and allows developers to obtain and configure capacity with minimal friction, the company said.

DeSantis said developers using Amazon EC2 can acquire "Elastic IP" addresses, which are static IP addresses designed for dynamic cloud computing. Unlike traditional static IP addresses, Elastic IP addresses can be dynamically remapped to point to any compute instance in a developer's Amazon EC2 account, Amazon officials said. Elastic IP addresses make it easy for companies to host Web sites, Web services and other online applications on Amazon EC2, enabling a new range of customers to take advantage of Amazon's on-demand cloud-computing offering, the company said.

Also, Amazon EC2 gives developers the ability to programmatically place instances in multiple Availability Zones. Previously, only very large companies had the scale to be able to distribute an application across multiple locations, the company said.

Now Amazon EC2 has made this as easy as changing a parameter in an API call, the company said. In addition, each Availability Zone runs on its own physically distinct, independent infrastructure, and is engineered to be highly reliable. Availability Zones have independent networking, power and cooling, and separation from risks such as flood and fire, helping an application to run uninterrupted across a wide variety of failure scenarios.

"Elastic IP addresses will make it easier for companies to take advantage of Web hosting on Amazon EC2," DeSantis said.

Amazon officials said uses of Amazon EC2 range from activities such as Web hosting, graphics rendering and Web crawling to genomics analysis, large parallelized batch processing and financial modeling. More than 330,000 developers have registered to use Amazon Web Services.

Amazon Web Services provides Amazon's developer customers with access to in-the-cloud infrastructure services based on Amazon's own back-end technology platform, which developers can use to enable business. Examples of the services offered by Amazon Web Services are Amazon EC2, Amazon S3(Simple Storage Service), Amazon SimpleDB, Amazon SQS (Simple Queue Service), Amazon FPS (Flexible Payments Service) and Amazon Mechanical Turk.

Developers looking to sign up to use Amazon EC2 can go to the Amazon Web Services Web site.

In his blog on March 30, Winer identified Google as a hypothetical competitor to Amazon Web Services, which he had written about March 29.

"The first question that comes up is, How can they afford to give it away?" Winer said of Google. "Google's search engine cost nothing to use and had no ads for the first few years, and look at how well that turned out. Flipped around, I don't see why Amazon charges me to use AWS [Amazon Web Services]."

However, he said, Google is also doing this. "How could they not be? What's hard to believe is how much of a running start Microsoft, Yahoo and Google have been willing to let Amazon have."