Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Amazon's Global CDN Storm Front

I've been traveling to California today for some upcoming cloud conferences, so I haven't had a chance to chime in on Amazon's CDN announcement. In case you haven't heard, Amazon Web Services has released their global content delivery service. That service is called Amazon CloudFront and it is ready for public use.

At first glance it looks awesome, a content distribution that uses a single REST-style POST... need I say more. But is it an Akamai killer? That's not so easy to answer. Traditionally most CDN's have been out of reach for the type of users that typical utilize amazon S3. (Smaller websites and startups) So I would say that this new commodity CDN opens a whole new potential market, the small to medium sized websites that until today haven't been able to effectively scale beyond the borders of the North America because simply the legacy CDN's weren't only addressing the needs of the startup.

Amazon says that the CDN service will have initially 14 edge locations (8 in the United States, 4 in Europe, and 2 in Asia) I think the question will be how quickly the large traditional CDN customer base (CNN, MTV, etc) will embrace this type of low cost service. A lot of the customers I've talked to have indicated that Amazon's complete lack of enterprise customer support is one the main reasons they haven't used the other AWS services. Will cost out weigh customer service?

As for the question of whether or not larger enterprises will migrate to Amazon's CDN. I'd say some will and some won't, but at the end of the day, I feel the fortune 5,000,000 is a far bigger opportunity then the traditional enterprise customer and Amazon knows this all too well. CDN providers such as limelight and Akamai's have done a far better job providing a proactive CDN infrastructure that enables a global user base, but at a cost that is out of line with other hosting options. Amazon is a master of the commodity business. Business areas that have slight profit margin seem to be a prefer ed target. Mix in a industry ripe for disruption and you've got a potent combination. Watch out Akamai.

In the short term the key issue will probably be centered around the more cosmetic aspects of a CDN such as the reporting dashboards. In the longer term, just like in EC2, we'll probably start to see a great deal of innovation appearing on top of the Cloud Front service just like the ecosystem that appeared around the other AWS services, which is far more valuable then any single AWS service on it's own. In this ecosystem is Amazon's core advantage.

I also recently wrote about the opportunities for the content delivery cloud.

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