Amazon stays ahead on the cloud curve

By admin, October 27, 2009 6:52 am

Amazon announced the introduction of another new addition to the ever-growing collection of Amazon Web Services (AWS) today, a database product called, appropriately enough, Relational Database Service (RDS). The MySQL-based service represents a step up from the sole existing AWS database product, SimpleDB, which is exactly what its name suggests: pretty simple. Customers have been hounding Amazon for a relational database option ever since SimpleDB was rolled out, and RDS is the answer to those requests.

Available only in beta now, RDS may prove to knock down the next big obstacle to cloud utility and scalability. It is hard to overstate the importance of databases to the proper function of just about any significant corporate computing application you might care to mention. At some level, almost everything lives in a database. Although flat-file databases such as SimpleDB have been enjoying renewed popularity in some circles recently (in a curious twist mirroring the reason the industry moved away from flat-file databases in the first place, some very large websites are now finding that relational database do not scale well beyond a certain point), most database programmers are more familiar with Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS) and still find them more efficient. It has been possible to get relational databases out in the cloud for a while now at Amazon by deploying EC2 instances running database software within them. Because all you have done at that point is create what amounts to a virtual machine with a plain old RDBMS running on it, though, you’re still on the hook for all the attendant management and maintenance, and the problems attendant with dynamically spawning a whole host of these machines to manage a single data set was often more trouble than it was worth.

Now, the scaling and administration happens behind the scenes, and anyone familiar with MySQL can get started storing their data in RDS without mucking around with the attendant problems. It dramatically simplifies RDBMS deployment in an online, scalable environment and once it’s out of beta may set off a whole new gold rush to AWS as developers who weren’t satisfied with the database offerings, a critical piece of many applications, take advantage.

More details can be found on Werner Vogels’ blog entry on the subject.

At the same time, AWS has announced new classes of EC2 computing instances and an across-the-board reduction in EC2 instance pricing. The pricing, already cheap, is set to drop another 15% on November 1st.

This combination of announcements seems to show Amazon remaining in the driver’s seat when it comes to cloud computing services. Google remains mired in their perpetual-beta, advertising-oriented Google world, doing fun stuff with neat technologies that don’t always have a lot of real-world business application, and Microsoft is still fumbling around trying to figure out how to sell cripple Azure just enough that it won’t cannibalize their server business when it comes out next month. Amazon is the only major player charging ahead at full speed with a clear vision of utility computing and what it offers to business customers.

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