Amazon Web Services: Still getting better

aws logo I often think back to 2006 when Dickson and I were in the midst of the VenturePrize business plan competition. It was around that time that Amazon.com launched their first web service, the Simple Storage Service (S3). It had a huge impact on our business, and we’ve been extremely happy customers ever since.

Over the last couple of years, Amazon has introduced a number of additional web services, the most well-known of which might be the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). You can think of it like an on-demand computer in the cloud. I had a quick look at it when it launched, but being a Windows shop, we really didn’t have time to invest the extra effort necessary to get it running. Now, Amazon has announced that EC2 will support Windows:

Starting later this Fall, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) will offer the ability to run Microsoft Windows Server or Microsoft SQL Server. Our goal is to support any and all of the programming models, operating systems and database servers that you need for building applications on our cloud computing platform. The ability to run a Windows environment within Amazon EC2 has been one of our most requested features, and we are excited to be able to provide this capability. We are currently operating a private beta of Amazon EC2 running Windows Server and SQL Server.

Very cool news for Windows developers. It should put some extra pressure on Microsoft too – though apparently they are getting ready to launch something. Watch for more news on that at PDC.

Another interesting new service that Amazon is introducing is a Content Delivery Service:

This new service will provide you a high performance method of distributing content to end users, giving your customers low latency and high data transfer rates when they access your objects. The initial release will help developers and businesses who need to deliver popular, publicly readable content over HTTP connections.

It will run atop S3, so anything that currently exists there can easily be added to the new content delivery network. This is very cool, and will finally bring world-class CDN infrastructure to small businesses. I wish they had introduced this two years ago!

Those are both very important improvements to AWS. Amazon is raising the bar, again. When will Microsoft, Google, and others answer?

Also – I just noticed recently that Amazon has redesigned the AWS website. It looks fantastic, in my opinion, and is much easier to navigate. Keep the positive improvements coming!

Upgrade to Web 2.5

Post ImageI really like the idea of “the Web as a platform”, an idea that has been termed “Web 2.0” and has become pretty widespread. While definitions vary, I rather like this one (from Richard MacManus and Joshua Porter’s “Web 2.0 for Designers“):

This may sound like we’re in the Matrix, but in the words of Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, “Web 2.0… is about making the Internet useful for computers.”

I think in the longrun that by making the Internet useful for computers, we can make it even more useful for humans. At least that should be the goal. Richard MacManus has an excellent collection of descriptions if you want more detail.

There are a ton of so-called “Web 2.0 companies” getting lots of love from the geeks in the crowd for being forward thinking and embracing this new idea of how to create web applications. Not sure which companies I’m talking about? Think Flickr, del.icio.us, 43Things, Google Maps, and A9 just to name a few. All of them offer an API, and so they make themselves a platform. These platforms have spawned some pretty cool services, like HousingMaps, Mappr, Colr Pickr, Cheap Gas, and many others. Very cool stuff.

Web 2.5

The problem with most of the Web 2.0 stuff floating around right now is that it relies on the browser. If Web 2.0 is about relinquishing control, why are all the current examples and mashups trapped inside the web browser? Seems pretty backward for such a forward thinking idea to me. And yes there’s the argument that creating a web page makes the application independent of the platform – it’s not tied to Windows or Mac or Linux. Yet with all this Web 2.0 goodness, I can’t help but wonder where the rich clients are? (There are lots of reasons to want a rich client, which I have written about in the past.) Do we have to settle for a thin client just to take advantage of this new “web as a platform” methodology? If that’s the case, it’s not as great as I thought!

If Web 2.0 is about creating a platform, then Web 2.5 is about creating a platform that can extend beyond the browser. Flickr’s API includes support for SOAP and XML-RPC, so there’s no reason that it couldn’t be used by rich client applications on Windows (for example) without having to use the browser. And what about those services that only offer a REST api or otherwise make it difficult to use outside the browser? Well then they aren’t Web 2.5 ready, are they? 🙂

Web 2.0 has the potential to take the Internet to the next level, and it many ways it already has. And while it’s still very early in the grand scheme of things, I can’t help but wonder if we’re going to get trapped by the thin client. So please, platform developers and mashup makers, upgrade to Web 2.5!