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Thursday, November 18, 2004

Amazon as Architecture

Artstechnica writes that Amazon is coming up with a sensational platform model. Excerpts:

The Amazon Simple Queue Service offers a reliable, highly scalable hosted queue for buffering messages between distributed application components. The Amazon Simple Queue Service reduces the costs associated with resolving the producer-consumer problem that arises in distributed application development. Such costs include increased application development time, and potentially significant investment in server and network infrastructure to support distributed application messaging. Amazon has already invested in the large-scale computing infrastructure that runs the Queue Service, and since the Service's interface is exposed via Web services, integration with applications is fast and easy.

Amazon is now going to host data structures for online applications of any type. These data structures are specifically designed for use in asynchronous communication, so that different parts of a distributed application can talk to each other. This makes Amazon sort of like a massive bank of DRAM, in the sense that a normal, multithreaded application that needs to pass messages between asynchronous threads usually allocates structures in main memory for this purpose. So if the Internet is an operating system, and a distributed, networked application is a multithreaded process, then Amazon is the main memory that the process's threads use to communicate. In other words, Amazon is developing a platform that anybody can use to write network applications, encompassing OS+ DRAM.Perhaps a better analogy than DRAM would be Federal Express. In this model, Amazon is a private third party messaging service that any type of business—from a flower shop to a automotive manufacturer—can use to send data between two locations. And like FedEx, Amazon's service solves a real problem, since distributed communication is an Increasingly important facet of networked computing. At some point, Amazon is going to want to charge fees for this that will scale with usage.

Amazon seems to already have the foundation of a sort of "centralized Internet login" function, in the form of their "tip jar" application and affiliate program. In just a few clicks, I can use my Amazon account to send revenue to a 3rd party, with or without the purchase of a book. The next step for Amazon is an MS Passport competitor. Think about it. They've already got your credit card number, shipping address, etc. on file, and now they're trying to insinuate themselves into the architecture of the Internet by providing back-end services for distributed applications.
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