Data Management

Amazon Offers Small Devs Ladder to Database Cloud

Amazon has added a new component to its Amazon Web Services (AWS), the online retailer announced Thursday. SimpleDB, a new Web-based service for running queries on structured data in real time, joins Amazon’s other offerings, Simple Storage Service (S3) and Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), as a computing solution for individual developers and small companies with big ideas and undersized budgets.

SimpleDB, launched as an invitation-only limited beta, creates a trifecta for users of Amazon’s S3 and EC2 services that together enable users to store, process and query data sets in the cloud. With this particular cloud, AWS customers have access to the same infrastructure and technical knowledge Amazon needed to run a Web-scale computing platform that would support its global ambitions — and which took Amazon some 11 years and more than US$2 billion to build.

“Smaller companies that are trying innovative ideas that require some server capability can do so on the cheap,” said Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst at Forrester. “[This way], spinning up new capability [can come] only after they sign a deal with a customer.”

Those interested in the service and participating in the beta can submit their e-mail address to receive an invitation on a first-come, first-served basis.

A Database Made Simple

SimpleDB picks up where Amazon’s S3 offering leaves off. S3 is designed to store files or objects of larger sizes. With Amazon’s new service, users are able to store smaller amounts and multiple sets of data accessible through a simple Web services interface.

Users can organize structured data into domains and run queries across all of the data stored in a particular domain, according to Amazon.

“An Amazon SimpleDB domain is like a worksheet, items are like rows of data, attributes are like column headers and values are the data entered in each of the cells,” the company explained.

Unlike a typical spreadsheet, however, SimpleDB “allows for multiple values to be associated with each cell.” With SimpleDB, each item can have its own unique set of associated attributes; it also automatically indexes data for easier and quicker searches, according to Amazon.

Scaling Up

Users can also scale their applications, creating new domains as their data grows or request throughput increases. During the beta, a single domain is limited in size to 10 GB and a maximum of 100 domains. However, Amazon said it may raise those limits over time.

The nice thing about SimpleDB is that it can take the kind of application developers would traditionally build on an Access database and put the data into the cloud, making it accessible from anywhere you can get an Internet connection, Forrester’s Hammond told TechNewsWorld.

Amazon offers the service on a pay-for-what-you-use basis with no minimum fee.

SimpleDB will run users 14 cents per machine hour used to complete a particular request, normalized to the hourly capacity of a 2007 1.7 Ghz Xeon processor. Data transfers cost 10 cents per GB transferred in, while outgoing transfers start at 18 cents per GB for the first 10 TB each month. That price decreases to 16 cents per GB for the next 40 TB per month and bottoms out at 13 cents per GB for over 50 TB transferred out per month.

Data transferred between SimpleDB and other Amazon Web Services is free.

Finally, storing structured data costs $1.50 for each GB per month.

Good Deal

As Amazon moves forward and rolls out new offerings for its Amazon Web Service, the company is stretching the limits of this Web 2.0 niche market. Its level of innovation and massive size may help encourage developers to pursue bigger and better projects than they might normally.

“They are pushing the boundaries in this particular sphere of Web 2.0. Virtualizing the infrastructure developers build apps on is an interesting concept. And what they do captures the imagination of small teams of developers working on the next big thing,” Hammond explained.

“[Amazon’s] size gives developers a certain level of comfort that they won’t have to turn on a dime because their service provider goes away,” he continued. “There’s also a certain logic in thinking that if they can handle the traffic surges associated with large-scale retail sales, they can handle unanticipated scaling demands if a new idea really hits home and starts growing.”

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